[Book review] The First Phone Call from Heaven by Mitch Albom

Mitch Albom.

I am familiar with his name. Well, who doesn’t? I am also familiar with his book titles. But never once in my 30-year life, I ever read his book.

Until one day, in the beginning of Spring 2019, I got sick. I locked myself at home, trapped in boredom and feverish cold. And, as always, books come to heal the loneliness in me.

I went to my one-metered height ivory bookshelf in the corner of our living room. There we keep our book collection ranging from poetry, Indonesian literature, to books on politics and history– the latter obviously belongs to my husband.

It didn’t take me long to pick The First Phone Call from Heaven out from all other books. I sat on a gray blanket-covered couch next to the bookshelf. I covered myself with another teal blanket and started reading. I didn’t expect much though. I just needed something to kill my time.

There’s a saying: “Blessed is he who expects nothing,  for he shall never be disappointed.”

True that. It only took a few first pages to make me understand why many friends of mine love his creations. I’d put my name on the list too.

The book itself tells us about the residents in a small town in Michigan who received phone calls from their deceased family member (some got calls from their friend and colleague). One of them is Katherine Yellin, a property agent, who talked with her deceased sister Diane every Friday.

Katherine, being a devout Christian, was on a mission to share the ‘good news’ to the world. She wanted people to believe that miracle and Heaven are real; that death’s not the end. She started it by sharing to the congregation of her church. The news expectedly shocked people in that town It got bigger as the media started to cover the news.

Meanwhile, there was Sully Harding, a father of five-year old boy who still grieved after his wife had passed away. He was skeptical with the phenomena and determined to find out.

First and foremost, I love Albom’s storytelling style. It’s simple, concise, yet remained beautiful and thrilling. He also combined the invention of telephone history with fiction. It’s a beautiful way to tell facts and history. He kept me turning the page day and night. If it’s not because of my NyQuil, I’d stay awake reading.

I met a bunch of characters with different backgrounds, yet shared one thing in common: receiving calls from the afterlife. It made me questioning: who would crack the code? Was this real? If it wasn’t, then who made that up? What’s the reason and rhyme?

The questions continued to grow as the story evolved. Every ending of a chapter is the beginning of more mystery to unfold. It sure is a good trick to keep the reader’s curiosity alive. And for a slow, easily-distracted reader like me, that writing technique works like a charm.

Though the story was good — I can’t say it’s great — you can’t expect reading quotable parts from this book, at least that’s how I experienced. As for the ending, I feel that it’s a bit predictable. Good news is the ending isn’t too rushy. You can still feel the riddles to the few last pages.

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