This book is about an old maintenance man named Eddie and his encounters with five people in heaven. At the beginning of the novel, Eddie dies in a tragic amusement park accident and he learns in heaven that his existence was not merely a misfortune. The main character struggles to understand his life, however, in heaven he begins to learn the truth.
Blog Entry #1
What is psychotherapy?
In basic terms, psychotherapy is the treatment of a mental disorder by psychological rather than medical means. There are many different forms of psychotherapy, however, all of them serve the same purpose of improving the mental conditions of patients. Just like physical injuries, mental illness is a serious problem in today's world and according to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), “depression is the leading cause of disability worldwide and a major contributor to the global burden of disease”. Doctor Sigmund Freud is one of the first doctors to develop a method for treating mental illness, known as psychoanalysis. The most common comparison is that of a doctor communicating with a patient reclined on a lounge chair. Mitch Albom, the author of the five people you meet in heaven, wrote his novel inspired by his uncle Edward Beitchman. On his website, he writes about his uncle saying, “[he] lived a life like that of [Eddie from the five people you meet in heaven], rarely leaving his home city, and often feeling that he didn’t accomplish what he should have”. Mitch Albom’s uncle Eddie lived during World War II and through the late period of psychotherapist Carl Rogers who believed in a humanist approach to mental therapy. Contrary to the fictional and real-life Edward Beitchman, Carl Roger’s theory is that in order for a human being to be fully functioning they must have a healthy environment to grow in. This is something that Edward did not have and carried with him to the grave. Mitch Albom writes what life might be like after death for people like his uncle Eddie and he explains heaven as the resolution to life. A place where all questions are answered by the five people who altered our lives in the biggest and sometimes unknown ways.
Blog Entry #2
Why does this topic appeal to you?
As mentioned before, there are many different types of psychotherapies. Every generation there are a handful of psychotherapists that are remembered for their theories which are impactful today in helping to modernize our psychotherapy practices. I cannot relate directly to people who have used therapy in order to cope with mental issues and trauma, however, I have experienced a lot in the past year with my neighbor passing away from cancer. My family is still struggling with the loss daily, but I have been comfortable enough to communicate with my family and learn to cope by myself. The novel that I chose to read, the five people you meet in heaven by Mitch Albom, my mother and sisters read with my neighbor’s mother as part of a book group. I was not included in this book group and still wanted to read this book. Psychotherapy is a common method used for people struggling to cope with personal events that often result in mental conditions if untreated. The main character from the five people you meet in heaven, Eddie, never had a great relationship with his father growing up which was one of his biggest regrets. Neither father or son was able to ask forgiveness after they allowed a fight to end their relationship. Eddie had returned from Vietnam after losing his leg and he suffered from PTSD and depression. Eddie’s father did not know how to cope with his son’s shortcomings. A major theme in the novel is the impact that everyone has on each other. Regardless of our knowledge or understanding of events, there are people around us that can impact us once or repeatedly. Psychotherapy is our attempt to understand relationships and this an impact that neither Eddie or his father took advantage of. I find psychotherapy fascinating because like philosophy we try to make sense of events that are not meant for us to comprehend. In Mitch Albom’s interpretation of heaven, life after death is about finding a new perspective and not always answers. In many ways, heaven is the psychotherapeutic treatment that Eddie and his father never got to experience while living.
Blog Entry #3
How did I conduct my research and organize information?
There was nowhere specific to begin researching psychotherapy, a lot of the stuff I found could be found easily in a single textbook. I don’t know how I will use the information that I collected, however, having the information in a single document will help me if I decide to focus my topic further when writing my paper this week. Psychotherapy was a good topic to choose because of the general theme of restoration. Before conducting a thorough investigation about psychotherapy, I wrote down a focus question as practiced in class several weeks before and created sub-questions to help break down my topic. By doing this, I was able to organize the information I found and organize it into a word document. I wanted to know who the important psychotherapy figures were and the theories that they had. How the concept of psychotherapy developed from Sigmund Freud to modern day practices. Being able to apply my research to the five people you meet in Heaven by Mitch Albom will be a challenge. I do not have a developed thesis to base a commentary around, however, I know that more of my research should be based around 1900s psychotherapist Carl Rogers. His beliefs paralleled the situation imagined by Mitch Albom when Eddie began is heaven’s journey. In heaven, Eddie learns ‘Self-Actualization’, how to be a fully functioning person, and the importance of ‘Self Worth and Positive Regard’. Even after reflecting upon my research process, I have a better idea how to approach the paper. Most of my research is based around secondary resources and I do not think this will change. Primary resources would make the research process overly complicated, but I’m not opposed to going in that direction if that is going to be useful. This is how I have conducted my research.
Blog entry #4
Did the opening hook you? What made it so interesting?
In Mitch Albom’s novel, the five people you meet in heaven, the biggest hook in the novel is the author’s life perspective which he shares through the main character Eddie. Albom’s uncle inspires the character Eddie because of a story he tells at a holiday gathering about a near death experience with heaven. Within the first eighteen pages, Eddie is killed in a spontaneous carnival ride accident. The reader can make assumptions from the title that the novel is based in heaven rather than Earth, however, this concept is not commonly used in novels. The protagonist in most novels rarely dies. Mitch Albom counts down the moments until Eddie’s death, starting from an hour before the event up to the seconds before he is hit by a falling cart. The author gets the reader’s interest through the suspense he creates with this writing style. Foreshadowing is another method that the author uses and perhaps what draws the most interest from the reader at the beginning of the novel. In the title, the five people you meet in heaven, the author reveals the ultimate fate of his character and the setting that the majority of his novel will take place. The introduction paragraph of the book states, “This is a story about a man named Eddie and it begins at the end, with Eddie dying in sun”. Mitch Albom has the reader waiting until the very moment when Eddie is killed because that is not the climax but instead the exposition before the rising action. ‘Heaven is not a final destination’ is the author’s opinion about heaven and he shared details about life's most important moments through the people that Eddie meets after his death. The novel is a very quick read however, there are a lot of important details that the author uses to create a hook and plant ideas for later in the novel.
Blog Entry #5
What effect does the writing style have on your reading experience?
Mitch Albom writes his novel in less than two hundred pages which in terms of a typical publicized book would be about one hundred and twenty pages. The novel includes several short sub-sections about the main character’s life, Eddie. This simplistic approach to writing allows the author to share his perspectives on several controversial ideologues without backing up his claims with too many pages. One of the main theories that author Mitch Albom discusses in the novel is his belief in the afterlife. Coming from a religious point of view and lifestyle, there is nothing wrong with sharing different theories about what life after death might be like. However, for non-christians this novel would be easily debunked as a tall story. That wasn’t the author's purpose to prove that heaven was a place where life is explained to you. After his uncle passes away, this novel is more of a dedication to the life of his relative and his Earthly encounters with angels. The author’s shift between real time and past events presents another idea that heaven is a timeless place. This was confusing because the main character Eddie was not directly connected in real time with the past montages written by the author. Mitch Albom’s use of his own ideologies is shown as he teaches the Eddie different lessons from his life. Each heavenly encounter was set up similarly to the other meetings: Eddie changes physically, changes locations and people in heaven, and a new lesson from each person is taught. The writing style of the author is unique because the novel presents mature material by discussing life and death, regrets and depression. However, while he does all of these things, he writes a novel that could be read by a young child. His writing style allows the novel target an audience of both youth and adults.
Blog Entry #6
What does this book show you about the human experience?
Mitch Albom uses his novel to teach five different lessons through five individual character interactions in heaven. The biggest point that Albom makes through Eddie’s interactions with people in heaven is that everyone has an impact one way or another on the people surrounding us. The tragedy in life is not knowing how much of an impact a single sacrifice or event can make on the lives surrounding us until we reach heaven. Eddie gave up his career, his dream life so that he could keep children safe around him at an amusement park. Another lesson that Albom teaches is that sacrifice is a part of life, this could not be more true. As part of one of my BHS Unleashed interviews recently, Athletic Director Bill Whitmore said, “it's about people and developing relationships, working with people on a daily basis, it's about helping people. I've always had a philosophy that you can get anything in life you want if you help enough other people get what they want. You got to help people, that's what [life's] all about.” One of the lessons that Albom teaches his readers indirectly is that perspective is the most important part to finding self-content. This was a characteristic that the main character Eddie was lacking in his time on Earth. He always wanted to be something more in life, from the time he returned from war he lived his life in regret and often times in the past. From Eddie’s post-death experiences, Albom uses common life lessons to teach readers the importance of interaction and being selfless. Sometimes bad things happen in life and while we can’t change the bad things, we can change how we handle them. Eddie was unfortunately taught this lesson too late, however, he lived a complete life and had plenty of events to reflect upon to forgive himself for his shortcomings.