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 Five People You Meet in Heaven characters? What does each character mean to Eddie?
Each of The Five People You Meet in Heaven characters is meaningful to Eddie. Some of the characters he only meets in death, but some are central figures in his life.
The Five People You Meet in Heaven Characters in the Afterlife
In The Five People You Meet in Heaven, characters from heaven each, for the most part, get their own dedicated chapters. Other The Five People You Meet in Heaven characters from Eddie’s life appear in his memories. Here are a few glimpses of Eddie’s first interactions with each of his five people.
Eddie’s First Person: 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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
Eddie and The Five People You Meet in Heaven Characters From His Life
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.
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.
Eddie’s father is one of the most important The Five People You Meet in Heaven characters, since much of Eddie’s journey deals with forgiving him. 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.
Eddie’s brother is one of The Five People You Meet in Heaven characters that doesn’t directly appear in the book. He is in Eddie’s memories and Eddie has to come to terms with their relationship.
Eddie’s Seventeenth Birthday
Up in his bedroom, Eddie can smell the special birthday dinner his mom is cooking for him. He’s reading a comic book when she calls him to come downstairs and join the family.
When he gets to the kitchen, Joe announces that Eddie met a girl the night before at Ruby Pier. Eddie is embarrassed, but Joe doesn’t stop. He continues to say that Eddie wants to marry this girl. Eddie punches Joe on the arm, and the two fight until their father breaks it up.
Later, after dinner, Eddie’s mother turns on the radio to news of war. Because it’s Eddie’s birthday, she chooses to turn the dial until there’s music. She asks Eddie to dance with her like he danced with the girl he met. Soon, Eddie, Joe, and their mother are all dancing around the living room and laughing together.
Joe is sitting in Eddie’s maintenance shop showing him a new battery-operated drill. Joe is a hardware salesman now, and makes three times as much money as Eddie does. Eddie has taken the promotion to head of maintenance at Ruby Pier, his dad’s old job. Eddie resents it and wishes he could switch places with Joe.
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.
One of the smaller The Five People You Meet in Heaven characters is Dominguez, Eddie’s co-worker. Dominguez helps get Eddie’s affairs in order after his death, and shows that he was cared for on Earth. 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.
Dominguez meets with Eddie’s estate attorney to go through his apartment. Dom tells the man that Eddie didn’t have much to leave behind. Entering Eddie’s tidy apartment, Dom realizes how much he misses the old man’s presence at Ruby Pier.
Each of The Five People You Meet in Heaven characters had an importance to the main character Eddie. The characters showed Eddie the path forward, and help readers think about relationships in their own lives.
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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