The Norman Transcript

N-town reviews

January 10, 2014

Book review: Mitch Albom’s newest novel warm, familiar

NORMAN — Book: The First Phone Call from Heaven (2013, HarperCollins Publishers)

Author: Mitch Albom

Why you should read: If there is one thing Mitch Albom knows how to do, it’s getting to the hearts of his readers. The author of many successful novels including “The Five People You Meet in Heaven,” “Tuesdays with Morrie” and “The Time Keeper,” Albom has delivered another familiarly warm story.

Sitting at No. 2 on the NY Times Bestseller list for hardcover fiction, “The First Phone Call from Heaven” explores the depths of belief and faith people can have in an emotional narrative centered on a small town on Lake Michigan. The town begins to attract a lot of attention when its inhabitants start receiving phone calls from their loved ones in Heaven.

We are first introduced to Tess Rafferty, who receives a phone message from her mother, who has been dead four years, saying, “It’s Mom… I need to tell you something.” The same thing happens to other folks all over town, receiving calls from deceased loved ones. One woman, Katherine Yellin, even goes in front of her church to announce that she heard from her dead sister, which sparks other people to come forward and say they’ve experienced the same phenomenon.

Shortly after, Sully Harding comes into the picture. Having served time in prison after crashing a plane, he comes out as a bitter man. His wife, who had rushed to see what had happened during his accident, was involved in a fatal wreck of her own. The single father of a little boy, Sully no longer believes in miracles, especially not the heavenly phone calls.

While the successful author’s stamp on this book should ensure its inevitable greatness, the story falls a little flat. Albom’s use of too many characters makes the story lose its punch on more than one occasion with all the interchanges. Overall, the novel’s inspirational message makes for an interesting read and leads to a satisfying conclusion.

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