Author: Mitch Albom
Published: November 2013
Publisher: Harper Collins
Genre: General Fiction
Edition: Advanced Readers' Copy
Pages: 336 (hardcover edition)
Source: I received a complimentary copy from the publisher and TLC Book Tours to facilitate this review. Receipt of same bears no influence over my opinion nor this review.
One autumn day, in a small town on Lake Michigan, the phones begin ringing. The people calling are all deceased. They talk about heaven. They say they are safe and happy. Each call is greeted differently—some with relief, some with love, some with religious zeal, some with fear.
On that same day, Sully Harding is released from jail for a crime he may not have committed. During his time behind bars, his wife, Giselle, passed away, leaving him a single father filled with heartbreak and regret. He returns to his hometown hoping to rebuild his life. Instead, he finds a community increasingly gripped by miracle fever. As the mysterious phone calls become more frequent, outsiders begin flocking from all over the world to be part of the blessing, changing the small town indelibly, and turning local citizens into worshipped heroes.
When his own son begins to carry a toy cell phone awaiting word from his mother, Sully has had enough. He sets out to prove that the phenomenon is a hoax. But is it? Or could this be the world’s greatest miracle? Do the calls give people hope, or do they imprison the receivers to a never-ending cycle of grief?
The story follows several residents whose lives have been irrevocably touched when they are confronted with evidence that heaven exists. This remarkable novel takes us on a journey both of individual healing and society’s response to the question of life after life.
Part mystery, part allegory, The First Phone Call from Heaven is a heart-racing page-turner and a soul-fulfilling tale of faith, hope and love.
What would you do if you received a phone call from a loved one who is deceased? How would you feel and act? Would you keep it a secret? Would you believe it if you were told they were calling from Heaven?
A select few residents of Coldwater have received those phone calls. Do they dare believe it to be true? A sister calls her sister to let her know she is happy in Heaven. A son calls his dad and then later his mother to let them know he is in Heaven and happy. Another resident receives a call from a deceased former employee. Hearing from a deceased person in this case is not reassuring, only stirring up the pain of the past.
A little boy carries around a toy phone hoping his mom will call him. Strangers arrive and camp outside of town hoping to get that precious phone call, just to hear their loved one's voices one more time. A resident is followed around town by a journalist and the news carries her story which goes viral.
The message from the deceased is: tell everyone the good news. Heaven exists and those who go there will find happiness. What joy this message could bring. What turmoil it also has the potential to bring. One man, Sully, sets out to find the true source of the messages because he doesn't believe. He sees the impact this announcement has made on the town but most of all on his young son who carries a toy phone, waiting for his mother to call him. The pain of her passing becomes as fresh as it was when at first it happened and Sully cannot endure it. He must prove the truth, one way or the other and in his efforts the reader becomes so caught up in the story that it passes too quickly.
The First Phone Call From Heaven will make you think about your own beliefs about death and heaven. Albom doesn't preach, this is fiction after all, but he opens up the mind to possibilities. He sets the stage for conversation. His novel makes you ask, what if? That very question that becomes embedded in your mind keeps you turning the pages to find out what happens, what if it were true?
The First Phone Call From Heaven is a great choice for a book club selection because it begs to be discussed and pondered. The plot will remain in your minds long after that last page is turned. If you open your mind and your heart to ponder, to question, to engage; then Albom has achieved a truly remarkable feat in offering a work of fiction that makes you ponder your very existence. What if......?
"As happens with all miracles, once life goes on, those who believe
retell them with wonder. Those who do not, do not." (Mitch Albom,
The First Phone Call From Heaven.)
Meet the Author:
Mitch Albom is an internationally renowned and best-selling author, journalist, screenwriter, playwright, radio and television broadcaster and musician. His books have collectively sold more than 35 million copies worldwide; have been published in forty-eight territories and in forty-four languages around the world; and have been made into Emmy Award-winning and critically-acclaimed television movies.
Find out more about Mitch at his website, connect with him on Facebook, follow him on Twitter, and sign up for his newsletter.