'The Next Person You Meet in Heaven' by Mitch Albom

When you've really enjoyed a book and then, years later, hear there's a new sequel, you are torn between anxiety that the new one won't live up to the expectation raised by the first and excitement that it might! And this was exactly my reaction when I heard about this book, so it is with some relief that I can report it's in the latter category.
          The Next Person You Meet in Heaven is a fitting sequel to The Five People You Meet in Heaven. It explores the same concept: that after you die you meet people who help you make sense of your life but they are not necessarily the people you'd expect them to be. In the first book, it's Eddie, the fairground maintenance man, who dies saving a child in an accident. In the second, it's Annie, the child that he saved. It is written with a delicate touch and an understanding of how life can sometimes only best be understood, looking back. When you are in the thick of difficult times, it can all seem random and senseless, but Mitch Albom suggests an order and a purpose that, as he puts it in his introduction 'is a wish and not a dogma, a desire that loved ones like Eddie find the peace that eluded them on earth, and realize how much we all affect one another, every day of this precious life.'
          It's a warm, up-lifting read, that doesn't try to do anything different, it just repeats a winning formula and does it very well. The dawning understanding and reconciliation between mother and daughter is particularly poignant as they both acknowledge the validity of their mutual viewpoint and behaviours.
          My main criticism of the book, comes with the ending: it's a bit of a cheat! If you are going to twist, it's got to be scrupulously fair to the reader and not contradict its own terms of reference. You get away with it Mitch,  but only just!
          All said though, this was a sequel worth waiting for and regardless of whether or not you read the first, it's definitely a read.

P.S If you are wondering whether I recommend every book I read, I'm back at book group next year so there are bound to be some 'don't reads' coming up shortly!!


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