This article is an excerpt from the Shortform summary of "The Five People You Meet In Heaven" by Mitch Albom. Shortform has the world's best summaries of books you should be reading.
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Who is Ruby in The Five People You Meet in Heaven? What does she teach Eddie in the book?
Ruby in The Five People You Meet in Heaven is Eddie’s second person. They never met in life, but Ruby’s life affected Eddie’s in ways he never imagined, and her lesson explains how we’re all connected.
The Five People You Meet in Heaven: Ruby
Eddie finds himself on the top of a mountain. He can see the sign of a diner flickering in the distance, so he walks towards it. Inside, he sees his father sitting at a booth in the corner. Eddie tries to yell out to his dad, but he gets no response.
An elegant old woman tells Eddie that he shouldn’t be angry at his father, because he can’t hear Eddie’s calls. The woman introduces herself as Ruby. Ruby in The Five People You Meet in Heaven is Eddie’s third person.
Ruby in The Five People You Meet in Heaven left school at age fourteen to work in a diner called the Seahorse Grill. One day, a handsome, wealthy man named Emile came into the diner. Emile enjoyed risky investments and loved taking Ruby to fun places. When Ruby agreed to marry Emile, he promised to build her a theme park so that they could stay forever young. That is how Ruby Pier became built.
One night, Ruby Pier caught on fire. Emile was injured and became depressed. Ruby moved their family away from Ruby Pier and wished for the rest of her life that it had never been built.
In The Five People You Meet in Heaven, Ruby tells Eddie that all things that happen and people who live before you’re born still have an effect on your life. She and Emile were the reason that Eddie worked at Ruby Pier. But that’s not what Ruby really wants to talk to Eddie about. She’s here to tell Eddie why his father died.
Ruby in The Five People You Meet in Heaven, helps Eddie come to terms with his relationship with his father. All children become damaged to some degree by their parents. Over the course of his life, Eddie’s father damaged him through neglect, then violence, then silence. Eddie’s father rarely held Eddie. He would beat Eddie and his brother, Joe. One night, Eddie grabbed his father’s fist, instead of letting him hit Eddie like normal. That was the last time his father ever spoke to him.
On Eddie’s thirty-third birthday, Eddie’s mom called him to tell him that his father had collapsed and gone to the hospital. He eventually died of pneumonia after coming home drunk and wet from the ocean. Eddie was disappointed in his father’s unheroic death. When Eddie decided to move home to take care of his mother, he blamed his father for all of his disappointment at being stuck in Ruby Pier. In The Five People You Meet in Heaven, Ruby is the first to suggest that Eddie’s father is not to blame.
Ruby in The Five People You Meet in Heaven shows Eddie the real reason for his father’s death: Eddie’s father jumped into the ocean to save his friend Mickey Shea. Mickey had gotten drunk and tried to kiss Eddie’s mother. Even though Eddie’s father had planned to hurt Mickey, he ultimately chose to save his life when he saw him fall into the ocean unconscious.
Ruby tells Eddie that he should learn from this story that holding onto anger is poisonous. You may think anger will act as a weapon toward others, but it only hurts you. She tells Eddie that he needs to forgive his father for all that he blamed him for.
So Eddie goes back into the diner and makes amends with his father.
Ruby in The Five People You Meet in Heaven is not the person Eddie expected to meet. But she helped Eddie continue on his journey.
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Here's what you'll find in our full The Five People You Meet In Heaven summary:
- Who the Five People Eddie meets in heaven are
- What each person teaches Eddie about the meaning of his own life
- Why Eddie finally feels gratitude and closure at the end of his life