Eddie is old, and has wasted his life working maintenance at the amusement park, Ruby Pier. His father did the job his whole life, and when he died, Eddie carried on. His life, Eddie thinks, was entirely useless. Until one day, a ride breaks down. A little girl runs to the broken ride because her mother is on it. Without hesitating, Eddie runs to save her, and dies in the process.
Heaven is not at all what Eddie expects it to be. He learns that he must meet five people that his life was connected, too. The first one, the Blue Man, was a part of the amusement park’s freak show when Eddie was a child. Eddie is horrified to find out that he unknowingly caused the Blue Man’s death. The Blue Man forgives him, and then teaches the first of five lessons he will learn.
Next, he meets his captain from when he served in the war. Eddie was injured in the war while escaping from a prisoner camp. The captain surprises Eddie with the true story of what really happened that day; he reveals that he shot Eddie in the leg, causing his lifetime war injury. Eddie is furious, until he learns the rest of the story. The captain gave his life to save his men. The captain teaches the next lesson; sacrifice.
Each person Eddie meets reveals similar surprising stories. Eddie is shocked to learn the truth about his father, whom he had hated his whole life.
With each step Eddie learns a lessons that will help him understand his purpose on earth. With each person, also, a question haunts him. Did he save that little girl? It is not until the last person, that Eddie is finally able to put all the stories together, and put them to rest. Eddie is left to prepare his own heaven, where he will be able to greet others and share how his story was intertwined with theirs.
Mitch Albom did not intend this book to show what heaven will be like. It is intended to teach what earth is really like. He does a remarkable job of bringing to light the importance of everyone who walks this earth. Albom skillfully wraps up just enough of the story to make it a complete story, but leaves enough holes to make his point. If every point of Eddie’s story was complete, that would undermine his purpose. We each need each other in order to complete to own stories. It is a cycle that will continue for as long as the human race does.