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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What is Ruby Pier? Why is it an important part of The Five People You Meet in Heaven?
Ruby Pier is the setting for much of the book The Five People You Meet in Heaven. Ruby Pier is where Eddie dies, and also the site of many of his memories.
Life at Ruby Pier: The End Is the Beginning
This story begins at the end, on the day that a man named Eddie dies. Like most endings, Eddie’s death is also a beginning, even though he doesn’t know it.
Eddie spends his final hour at Ruby Pier amusement park, a place that he has worked for most of his life. He is the maintenance man, so his job is to maintain and fix the park’s many rides, attractions, and games. After so many years, he can detect problems with the rides just by listening to them. He is an old, resilient man. He has the stature and dress of a workingman, which is exactly what he is.
Eddie walks with a cane now because of a knee injury he got in the war. He has white hair and a strong, barrel chest. Despite Eddie’s past of alley fights in his youth, the park’s regulars trust Eddie and children like him. Many people have taken to calling him “Eddie Maintenance,” like it says on his name tag. He doesn’t think that’s funny.
Today is Eddie’s 83rd birthday. If he had known he was about to die, he would have gone somewhere else and done something new. He had always dreamed of leaving Ruby Pier behind and starting a different life. But he never got around to leaving after the war. So, he goes about his last day as he did every other.
With thirty-four minutes left to live, Eddie walks into the amusement park maintenance shop. There, he talks with Dominguez, one of the fellow workers. Dominguez tells Eddie that he is planning a trip to Mexico with his wife. Eddie takes out 40 dollars, hands it to “Dom,” and tells him to get his wife a nice gift. Then, he walks away.
With only 19 minutes left in his life, Eddie goes to sit in his special spot. It’s an old aluminum beach chair that he has placed behind the ride where he first met his late wife Marguerite. The ride used to be called the Stardust Band Shell in those days. The night they met, Eddie and Marguerite danced together on the boardwalk. Listening to the sounds of the ocean, he visualizes that moment, which he considers the snapshot of true love. Eddie used to think of his wife all the time, but lately, he tries to forget the pain like an old wound.
Eddie’s daydream of Marguerite is interrupted by a young girl with blonde curls. Eddie has seen her around the park many times before, but can’t remember her name. Annie? Amy? She asks him to make her an animal out of the pipe cleaners he is known to carry in his front pocket. He twists up a small, yellow bunny for her, and she dances away, smiling.
All of a sudden, Eddie hears screams and immediately knows something is wrong. Looking up, he sees the cart of the Freddy’s Free Fall ride dangling at a dangerous angle. The passengers are terrified. He calls to Dom and the rest of the park maintenance and security teams. He gives everyone directions of how to handle the situation. He tells them to evacuate the passengers from the ride, then send the broken cart down to be examined.
Eddie could never have known this, but a few months earlier, a young man lost his car key at Ruby Pier amusement park. He had been keeping it in his jacket pocket while he rode the rides. As it turns out, the key had fallen and become lodged in Freddy’s Free Fall and had been slowly wearing away at the cable. There was no way to see that this was happening. Every person’s story overlaps with someone else’s.
Just as the passengers are being taken off the dangerous ride, Eddie realizes that there must be something wrong with the cable. He screams for Dom to keep the cart at the top, but it’s too late. He sees the cart hurling toward the ground. Just underneath, the little girl with the pipe cleaner bunny is crying out for her mom.
Without hesitation, Eddie runs toward the girl, ignoring the pain in his injured knee. He jumps toward her and feels her small hands just before the impact and a flash of light. Then, he feels nothing.
The Journey and Arrival
Eddie did not get to witness anything after his final breath. He didn’t see the cart shatter or the crowd on the pier. He remembers the little girl’s face as she cried and the feeling of her hands in his. Then what? He wonders if he was able to save her.
Eddie is floating in the sky, which turns from pink to yellow to green to sapphire. He feels calm. Any pain or sadness he had in life has vanished. He wonders where his worry has gone. Now, he is dropping towards a colorful ocean, but he is not afraid.
Eddie wakes up in a teacup. Though his instinct is to reach for his cane, he realizes it isn’t there and he doesn’t need it. His back doesn’t hurt. His knee doesn’t throb. He jumps out of the teacup and lands awkwardly on the ground. Three things strike Eddie as odd:
- He feels great.
- He is completely alone.
- He is still at Ruby Pier. But it’s the Ruby Pier he knew as a young boy, 75 years ago.
Eddie begins to walk around and take in his surroundings. Realizing he feels no pain, he starts to run for the first time in 60 years – the first time since the war. He runs and leaps and tries to fly like a child would. He only stops when he hears a voice.
Looking towards a large theater, Eddie realizes it’s the voice of a barker announcing a freak show. As a kid, Eddie always felt bad for the cast of the freak shows and how they were forced to sit behind bars while people pointed at them. For some reason, he still walks inside.
In the dark hall, he sees a man sitting alone. The man’s skin is blue. Eddie has seen this man before.
The Blue Man says, “Hello, Edward… I have been waiting for you.”
Though Eddie was often upset with his life’s path and fate to stay at Ruby Pier amusement park, it proves to be the site of many of his life experiences. Ruby Pier plays an important role in the story.
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Like what you just read? Read the rest of the world's best summary of Mitch Albom's "The Five People You Meet In Heaven" at Shortform .
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