The First Phone Call from Heaven
Imagine picking up your cell phone and hearing the voice of someone you loved dearly, but had already died. There is no question that the voice is theirs, and they are saying things to you that only they would know.
Would you believe? Would you doubt? Would you tell anyone?
Those are the questions explored in THE FIRST PHONE CALL FROM HEAVEN, the latest book by Mitch Albom, bestselling author of TUESDAYS WITH MORRIE.
In the small town of Coldwater, Michigan, a handful of residents start receiving calls from beyond. The people on the other end are loved ones they’ve lost: a sister, a friend, a mother, a son. There seems to be a common message from these callers: to let their loved ones know that there is life after death and that the hereafter is wonderful: filled with God’s light, no more pain and full of love. The callers also stress the importance of telling everyone, of letting people know that death is not the end.
"Albom has crafted a powerful and page-turning tale. I spent the first three-quarters wondering how in the world the story would play out, and the twist at the end was a pleasant surprise."
Those receiving the calls hesitate to share the news with others for fear of ridicule. But one of these “chosen ones” eventually stands up in church and announces it to the congregation, instantly causing an uproar. The town is divided. Some call it a miracle, others are convinced it’s a hoax. But regardless of opinion, one thing is certain: Coldwater, Michigan is now on the map and is the focal point of every home in America. People are flocking to this tiny, remote town to be a part of this amazing phenomenon. National news reporters are sent in to cover the story. The police force is increased to maintain order among the supporters and protesters. Cell phone sales skyrocket.
Sully Harding has just been released from prison. While he sat in a jail cell, his wife died and he wasn’t able to say goodbye. He now has to care for his young son, who carries around a toy cell phone, believing his mommy is going to call him from heaven. Sully is heartbroken for his boy; he is determined to figure out the truth behind this “hoax” once and for all and begins to investigate on his own. He soon learns a couple of curious facts: the calls only come in on Friday, and each recipient happens to have the same cell phone plan. Something isn’t adding up, and Sully won’t stop digging until he figures out what it is.
THE FIRST PHONE CALL FROM HEAVEN is written from an omniscient point of view, which is fitting for the topic. It’s as if the author is looking down on the scene, describing the details of the event, and telling about the characters involved, but without their personal emotion. There is a large cast, and Sully is probably the closest to a main character as you can get, but he doesn’t stand out much above the rest. I would definitely call this a plot-driven, rather than character-driven, novel.
That is not to say there is no emotion involved. It may not come from character development, but it’s impossible not to feel something when reading about the topic of death and afterlife --- particularly when it challenges your mind and faith, which this book certainly does.
One of the coolest aspects is that interspersed within the chapters are interesting facts and tidbits about Alexander Graham Bell, the invention of the telephone, and other communication-related information. Combining this with a plot that is fresh, unique and relevant for today, Albom has crafted a powerful and page-turning tale. I spent the first three-quarters wondering how in the world the story would play out, and the twist at the end was a pleasant surprise.
The impact of THE FIRST PHONE CALL FROM HEAVEN will vary from reader to reader, but there is no question that you’ll take away something. If nothing else, it may just provide some excellent food for thought about doubt, faith, heaven, and the power of forgiveness. Albom’s latest work is definitely one for the keeper shelf.
Reviewed by Lynda Lee Schab on December 1, 2013