Albom (The Magic Strings of Frankie Pesto, 2015, etc.) returns to the scene of previous literary crime: heaven, that is, and the realm of departed folks who are only too glad to dispense advice.
"This is a story about a woman named Annie, and it begins at the end, with Annie falling from the sky.” In this sequel to The Five People You Meet in Heaven (2003), gruff Eddie the maintenance man gets to have a little chat with the aforementioned Annie, for whom he gave up his life in a freak roller-coaster accident in the first book, sparing her from death. So what’s she doing up in the afterlife? Well, it seems Annie has fallen in love, married, and then honored the event by going up in a hot air balloon. What is it with her and divergent modes of transportation? And now, thanks to high-tension wires, Annie has bitten the big one—or maybe not—and is wandering around in the clouds reliving past mistakes and holding self-discovery sessions with, yes, five of her predecessors in the dirt nap. You’d think Eddie would be a little ticked that he lost a decade to a woman who seemed destined for the express checkout lane in any case, especially because, Albom writes, “She never thought about heaven.” He adds, helpfully, “But heaven is always thinking about us.” Yep, and yuck. There’s more than a little of The Little Prince here (“A vast brown desert surrounded her. / And she was alone”) and more than a little too much wisdom (“We don’t realize who else we punish while we’re punishing ourselves"). A question: Isn’t it a cheat when one of the dead quintet is a dog? And further: If you avoid death proper but have met your allotted five people in the great fluffy cloud beyond during your near-death experience, do you have to meet five other people when your time actually does come? Isn’t that fudging the numbers?
For those who prize fortune-cookie philosophy and sticky-sweet resolutions, this is just the ticket to ride.