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 Tala in The Five People You Meet in Heaven? What does she teach Eddie about the afterlife?
Tala in The Five People You Meet in Heaven is the fifth person Eddie meets. Like the others, she offers a lesson about his life. Tala in The Five People You Meet in Heaven is one of the most emotional people for Eddie in the story.
Tala in The Five People You Meet in Heaven
Tala in The Five People You Meet in Heaven is the last person Eddie meets, and the one who finally grants him peace.
Eddie Meets His Fifth Person
Eddie is hanging in a white, silent place. The only noise is his own labored breathing. Eddie realizes that Marguerite is gone, and is overcome with an empty feeling. After some time, Eddie hears a noise and opens his eyes. This feels different than the first four areas of heaven he’s seen.
He hears the noise again—louder this time. It is a noise that has haunted his dreams. The sound is like a medley of squeals and cackles. He yells into the white void: What do you want?
Then, the noise changes. He hears running water and sees that there is now ground under his feet. He is relieved to see that the noise is nothing but the sound of thousands of children laughing and playing. He wonders if that is what he’s been dreaming about all this time, when he thought he was having nightmares.
One of the children catches Eddie’s eye. The young girl is standing on a boulder, and she motions for him to come towards her. In an attempt to follow, Eddie falls on his bad knee. A burst of wind picks him up and places him down right in front of the little girl.
More of Eddie’s Birthdays
* Eddie is 51. It’s his first birthday since losing Marguerite. She would always insist Eddie celebrate his birthday with taffy, friends, and cake. Now, he doesn’t celebrate—he goes to work and comes home to watch TV, as he always does.
* Eddie’s 60th birthday is a Wednesday. He makes himself a sandwich and uses a piece of it as bait for fishing.
* On Eddie’s 68th birthday, Joe calls him from Florida. Eddie mostly just says “uh-huh.”
* Eddie turns 75 on a Monday. He notices that one of the Ruby Pier workers missed a brake test on one of the rides the night before. So Eddie sighs and checks it himself.
* Eddie is 82. He has a taxi pick him up from Ruby Pier and take him to the cemetery. He visits his mother’s grave, Joe’s grave, and his father’s. He saves Marguerite for last. He imagines eating taffy with her one last time.
Eddie’s Final Lesson
The little girl standing before Eddie has beautiful, dark skin and arresting black eyes. She waves her hands excitedly to Eddie. Her name is Tala. He repeats, “Tala.” Then she begins to name things in her own language and Eddie imitates each word.
Eddie sees the other children in the water around them. They are bathing with stones. Tala in The Five People You Meet in Heaven says that is how their mothers used to wash them. Then Tala notices pipe cleaners in Eddie’s shirt. He twists up a little dog for her. He asks her if she likes the toy, but she answers “You burn me.”
Tala in The Five People You Meet in Heaven tells Eddie that she used to have to hide from soldiers. Eddie is horrified because he knows that she was the shadow he saw in the flames the day of his escape from captivity. Looking into Tala’s eyes, he is heartbroken. He begins to sob and wail, asking for forgiveness for the things he’s done. Eddie continues to weep while Tala plays with her pipe cleaner dog.
Tala hands Eddie a stone and asks him to wash her. She removes her shirt and Eddie is startled to see that her skin is burned and scarred. As he washes her with the stone, the scars begin to fall away.
In The Five People You Meet in Heaven, Tala uses her fingers to tell Eddie that she is his fifth person. A tear falls down Eddie’s cheek, and Tala asks him why he was sad in his life. Just like he told the Blue Man, the Captain, Ruby, and Marguerite, Eddie says that he was sad because he was stuck at Ruby Pier his whole life. He didn’t feel that’s where he was meant to be. But Tala tells him that he was meant to stay at Ruby Pier. He was keeping other children safe—making up for the harm that he accidentally caused Tala. Then she calls him “Eddie Maintenance.”
Sitting in the river, Eddie can sense that he will be moving on soon. So in The Five People You Meet in Heaven, he asks Tala if she knows about the little girl he died trying to save. He wants to know if he was able to pull her out in time. Tala says no.
Eddie didn’t pull the little girl, he pushed her out of the way of the falling car and into safety.
Eddie is confused, because the only thing he remembered of his last moment was the little girl’s hands in his. In The Five People You Meet in Heaven, Tala smiles and holds Eddie’s hands. The hands Eddie remembers were Tala’s hands as she pulled him into heaven to keep him safe.
Suddenly, the river water begins to rise. Eddie is carried away by a current. He is still holding Tala’s hand. As he continues to float along, he feels his soul leaving his body. He is going through the colors again, like he did when he first arrived in heaven, and he realizes that these are all of the emotions he felt in life. Soon, he emerges from the water into a dazzling light. This is what he sees:
- Thousands of happy men, women, and children are walking along the boardwalk of Ruby Pier. These are all of the people in the past, present, and future who Eddie has affected in his time as a maintenance man. Hearing the voices of all the people that he has kept safe, Eddie feels peace.
Letting go of Tala’s hand, Eddie floats up above the park. At the top of the Ferris wheel, Marguerite waits for him with open arms. Marguerite’s smile and the voices of the children down below are like a message from God: Eddie is home.
Tala in The Five People You Meet in Heaven is the last person Eddie meets. Finally, after meeting Tala in The Five People You Meet in Heaven, Eddie is at peace.
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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