Mitch Albom is no stranger to us. For many of us, his name is synonymous with the kind of book that reflects on the meaning and lessons of life. Personally, Tuesdays With Morrie: An Old Man, A Young Man, And Life’s Great Lesson, first published in 1997, has been my favorite. And I like the idea of heaven reaching out to us down here – through the phone, which is the overall theme of his latest book. And coming as it is just a little over a month before Christmas, I think it is timely.
The First Phone Call from Heaven by Mitch Albom is a tender and delightful story told through the life of Sully Harding, a widower, who returns home to Coldwater, Michigan, after a series of tragic incidents leading to his imprisonment and his wife dying while he is incarcerated. The mysterious phone calls start one autumn day. Tess was called by her mother whom she had nursed through Alzheimer’s, and Katherine also received a call from her sister. Elias Rowe was called by a man who blames him for his death, and Jack, the police chief by his son Robbie, who was killed in Afghanistan. And several others as well. Some keeps the call a secret but when some choose to talk about it, the news spread like wildfire. Sully is skeptical about it and plans to uncover the hoax but his son, Jules, is convinced and believes his mother will contact him and dearly clutch onto his plastic phone.
Coldwater is swarming with a deluge of newshounds, miracle-seeking pilgrims and spiteful protesters. Amy Penn, a young and ambitious reporter, is entrusted the task of covering the case by her paper. It is the kind of assignment she has been long hoping for. It could make or break her career. She is also a little apprehensive as she could be on a wild goose chase, while at the same time she is genuinely hoping that it would be the beginning of a new direction in her career and life. But there is one nagging question that must be answered: Is it a real miracle or a hoax? No one knows. And the mad scramble continues.
When plan is afoot to broadcast one of the phone calls to the entire world, Sully knows time is running out. He works at a frenzied pace. Elias Rowe and a young girl offer their help. As the world holds it breathe to hear the first phone call from heaven, Sully manages to unravel the truth before the waiting world, bringing the story to a decisive climax.
The First Phone Call from Heaven is a story of loss, grief, hope, forgiveness, miracle, and faith. It is beautiful beyond the scope of the ordinary, as Albom paints a picture with a canvas that is awesome, sweeping and inspiring. The book keeps me thinking – thinking about loved ones in heaven. What if heaven is really just a phone call away? What if you are allowed a call or two in a lifetime? It would be so wonderful to hear the voices of loved ones, find out how they are doing, and share with them about our joys and happiness.. I’ll talk to them about the cheers and smiles the little ones are bringing into our lives. And to my dad, how his only grandson, who was born three days after his home-going, bears a striking resemblance to him – in appearance, movement and features. I know he would growl with laughter that heaven will shake. And the other call will be to my “angel” wife – but why should I tell you what I would be telling her?
Here are some favorite quotes from the book:
There are two stories for every life; the one you live and the one others tell.
Desire sets our compass, but real life steers our course.
Sometimes, questions are more hurtful than insults.
Bad news has no limits. We often feel it should, like a rainstorm that can’t possibly get any heavier. But a storm can always worsen, and the burdens of life can too.
Miracles happen quietly every day – in an operating room, on a stormy sea, in the sudden appearance of a road side stranger. They are rarely tallied. No one keeps score.