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 are the 5 people you meet in heaven? Who does the main character, Eddie, meet in the book The Five People You Meet in Heaven?
In the book, Eddie dies in an accident and is transported to an afterlife where he meets five people who each teach him something about his life and his death. For Eddie, the answer to the question, who are the 5 people you meet in heaven? is not what he expected.
The 5 People You Meet in Heaven
Who are the 5 People you meet in Heaven? For Eddie, those five people are not quite who he expected. But even so, the 5 People You Meet in Heaven can help you move on to the afterlife, just like they did for Eddie.
Eddie’s First Person: The Blue Man
The first of the 5 People You Meet in Heaven is the Blue Man. When Eddie first arrives in heaven, it looks like the Ruby Pier he knew as a boy. He gets up to look around and finds that his body and mind feel young again. He is able to run and he feels no pain or worry.
He hears a voice beckon him into a tent he recognizes from the freak show in his youth. Inside, he sees a man with blue skin. The man used to work at Ruby Pier when Eddie was a boy, but they never met.
The Blue Man’s Story
The Blue Man’s name is Joseph Corvelzchik. As a boy, Joseph was very nervous. When he got older, he went to a chemist to try and calm his anxiety. The pharmacist gave him silver nitrate, not knowing that it was a poison that would leave his skin permanently blue.
Joseph was outcast from society because of his blue skin. He was forced to take a job in the freak show at Ruby Pier. One day, Joseph was practicing driving in his friend’s car when he saw a baseball roll across the road. A young boy ran to chase it. Joseph swerved out of the way, but the stress caused him to have a heart attack. He died that day.
Every story has different angles. It turns out that the young boy chasing the baseball was Eddie on his seventh birthday. Eddie unknowingly killed the Blue Man.
The Blue Man’s Lesson
Eddie is worried that the Blue Man only told him this story to make Eddie pay for his part in Joseph’s death. But the Blue Man assures him that the lesson to take away from his story is that that all lives are connected and nothing is completely random. We shouldn’t waste any time thinking that we are alone.
Eddie’s Second Person: The Captain
Eddie finds himself in a desolate terrain. This is a place that has haunted Eddie for years. There are booming noises in the sky above him. Eddie army crawls through the mud to hide under a bush. After a while, he hears a familiar voice from high in the tree above him. Eddie is carried up into the tree, and sees his old Captain from the war. This is the second of the 5 People You Meet in Heaven.
Eddie’s Memories of War
Eddie enlisted for the war thinking that it would make him a man. He learned a lot of lessons from his time in the military, especially from his time in captivity.
Eddie was taken prisoner along with the Captain and three other men: Smitty, Morton, and Rabozzo. He suffered terrible conditions, including watching Rabozzo be shot in the head.
One day, Eddie convinced his guard to let him juggle some rocks. Eddie threw the rocks into the faces of the guards, and the prisoners were able to fight for their freedom. They killed their captors and decided to burn down the barracks.
Just as Eddie sent the last building up in flames, he saw a small shadow moving inside. He became manic, thinking he left a child burning inside. He couldn’t bring himself to leave the burning building until he felt an intense pain in his leg.
Sometime later, Eddie woke up in a medical unit. He learned that he’d been shot in the leg, and the wound will never fully heal. After that, Eddie was never the same.
The Captain’s Story
The Captain looks straight at Eddie and tells him that he was the one who shot Eddie in the leg all those years ago. He knew that Eddie would never have been able to leave that burning building, so he had to take Eddie’s leg to save Eddie’s life.
Later that night, the Captain was driving the transport with an unconscious Eddie in the back. He hopped out to look for danger on the road ahead. Just as he signaled to his soldiers that the road was clear, a land mine exploded under his foot. The Captain was launched into the air and torn into a hundred pieces.
The Captain’s Lesson
The Captain tells Eddie that he’s been waiting for him all this time because he has a lesson that Eddie needs to hear. He says that sacrifice is a part of life that we are meant to be proud of. He asks for Eddie’s forgiveness for shooting him in the leg. Realizing that the Captain sacrificed his own life to save Eddie’s, Eddie shakes the Captain’s hand.
Eddie’s Third Person: 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. This is another person Eddie has never met, and is the third of the five people you meet in heaven.
Ruby 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.
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.
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.
Ruby 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.
Eddie’s Fourth Person: Marguerite
Eddie finds himself in a small, round room filled with doors. Behind each door is a different wedding in a different country. He enters one door to find a beautiful Italian wedding. Eddie sees a young woman handing out candied almonds. The woman is his wife, Marguerite. She is the one Eddie expected to meet when he thought about the 5 people you meet in heaven.
Marguerite and Eddie met at Ruby Pier on Eddie’s seventeenth birthday. They fell in love, and she waited for him when he went away to war. They were married in a small Chinese restaurant and lived in Ruby Pier for their whole lives together. She always liked that they could see the Ferris wheel from their kitchen window.
Marguerite was unable to bear her own children, and she asked Eddie to adopt with her. Although he thought they were too old, he agreed to try. Just before they were about to adopt, Marguerite got into a car accident. She had been driving to the race track to apologize to Eddie for their fight. Her recovery took time, and they lost the chance to adopt. Their relationship suffered from blame and disappointment, and it took many years for them to get their love back.
When Marguerite was 47, she was diagnosed with cancer. Eventually, she died in the hospital. Eddie couldn’t help but feel angry that he lost his love so early.
Marguerite tells Eddie that even though she died, he still carried her love with him. Even though life has to end, that doesn’t mean love has to end. She assures Eddie that she could feel his love all this time, all the way in heaven.
Eddie and Marguerite dance together one last time before she disappears from his arms.
The 5 People You Meet in Heaven: Eddie’s Fifth Person, Tala
Eddie is floating in a white place. He hears a squealing noise that has haunted his dreams for years, and he feels frightened. But then, the ground forms under his feet. He looks around and sees that the noise is actually the sound of thousands of children playing in a beautiful river. A small girl waves to Eddie, and he goes toward her. She says her name is Tala.
Tala notices the pipe cleaners in Eddie’s pocket, so he makes her a little dog. He asks if she likes it. Without answering, Tala tells Eddie that she used to have to hide from soldiers. She says, “You burn me.” Eddie knows that the shadow he saw in the flames on the day he was freed from captivity must have been Tala. He begins to sob.
Tala steps into the river and takes off her shirt to reveal that her body and face are covered with burns and scars. Eddie takes a stone and washes her little body until all of the scars are gone.
Tala uses her fingers to tell Eddie that she is his fifth person.
Eddie can’t help but cry when he looks into Tala’s eyes. She asks Eddie why his life was so sad. He says that he always felt as though he was meant to leave Ruby Pier, but couldn’t.
Tala tells Eddie that he was meant to stay at Ruby Pier. It was his job to keep children safe. This way, he could make up for the harm he caused Tala.
Finally, Eddie asks Tala if he was able to save the young girl at Ruby Pier before his death. Tala says he was able to push her out of the way of the falling car. Eddie is confused because he felt the girl’s small hands in his before he died. But Tala tells him that those were her hands pulling him into heaven.
The river waters begin to rise, and they carry Eddie away. When he emerges, he sees thousands of men, women, and children at Ruby Pier amusement park—all the people he has kept safe over the course of his life. 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.
The Five People You Meet in Heaven is a book that offers lessons about life, death, and more. The lessons in the books can help readers learn more about their own lives, and help you think about the 5 people you might meet in heaven, and what they mean to you.
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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