The Five People you Meet in Heaven

Mitch Albom

I recently came across this novel on my parents’ bookcase and I am thrilled I picked it up. Eddie is a war veteran, who dies in a tragic accident on his 83rd birthday in an attempt to save a young girl.

This is perhaps one of the most thought-provoking books I have read recently, asking questions of why we live the lives we do and the meaning behind them. The book follows Eddie, after he dies and wakes up in the afterlife, continuing with his journey through heaven where he meets five people who each had an impact on the course of his life. Despite several of these people being unknown to Eddie himself, they all altered the course his life significantly and when he arrives in heaven they are there to explain the reasons for why his life turned out how it did.

This novel concept led to an intriguing story that I couldn’t put down, particularly since the simplicity of Albom’s writing results in a quick read that requires no effort on the part of the reader. The book addresses philosophical questions around the meaning of life and the afterlife in a remarkably concise manner that forces you to confront the impact you want your life to have on those around you.

Throughout the book we are also given snapshots of different points in Eddie’s life, spending brief chapters on earlier various birtrhdays of his. This allows us the opportunity to understand why Eddie feels the way he does about his life as well as giving us greater insight into his thoughts at the time when he encountered some of the people who are waiting for him in heaven.

This is an excellent book about forgiveness, acceptance and lost love that I would whole-heartedly recommend.

After the End

Clare Mackintosh

After the End follows two parents having to make a decision no parent should have to; whether to stop pursuing further treatment options and agree to only providing their 3-year-old son with palliative care going forward.

Pip and Max are parents to their son, Dylan, who is on life support because of a brain tumour and, despite various surgeries and rounds of chemotherapy, it is unlikely he will ever recover. They are told they must decide whether they should just pursue palliative care and not resuscitate him should his heart fail again or continue to look for other treatments. However, Pip and Max don’t agree.

The first half of the book alternates between Pip, Max and Dylan’s doctor, Dr Leila Khalili’s perspective, through the process of making the decision and ultimately going to court in the process. However, then the book follows two different directions, presenting us with what would happen in either timeline; one where Dylan is provided with only palliative care and one where he is taken to Houston, Texas for an alternative form of treatment.

I found this to be an interesting method of structuring the novel, and an unexpected one, because you never find out which timeline actually takes place, in a sense there is no true reality, there is just the two possible realities. I think this was a clever approach to the book because it manages to circumvent a more predictable narrative arc where the novel concludes with the judges’ decision.

Although I am unsure if I preferred reading about both realities, because whilst there is a lot of overlap between the events that take place, which reinforces the idea that what will be, will be, I found it in some ways uncomfortable to have a clear comparison of the two potential futures. I believe the intention is to demonstrate that there was no right or wrong decision and that either way life will present its trials and tribulations, but I personally found that it highlighted ways in which each choice was the wrong thing to do. Perhaps this was the actual intention, as it makes you confront how you would make that decision and what you would ultimately want in life, but instead I simply found it slightly frustrating to read.

That being said, I would still recommend the book as it is a truly moving account of what it is to be a parent in such a heart-breaking position, caring for a terminally ill child and subsequently coping with the loss of a child.