Thursday, January 23, 2014

Book Review: The First Phone Call from Heaven by Mitch Albom

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BOOK review
Started on: 15.January.2013
Finished on: 19.January.2013


Title : The First Phone Call from Heaven
Author : Mitch Albom
Publisher : Sphere
Pages : 312 Pages
Year of Publication : 2013

Rating: 4/5
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"Miracles happen quietly every day - in an operating room, on a stormy see, in the sudden appearance of a roadside stranger. They are rarely tallied. No one keeps score.
But now and then, a miracle is declared to the world.
And when that happens, things change."
It was an ordinary day in Coldwater when the phones in several places ring; but in fact, a phone call would made the certain lives of people become extraordinary. Tess Rafferty, Jack Sellers, and Katherine Yellin are some of those people. They almost couldn't believe the fact that a call came from the people they love - who had already passed away. Tess Rafferty received a call from her mother, Jack Sellers got a call from his deceased son, and Katherine Yellin was called by her dead sister. And this story will also change the fate of small town like Coldwater.

Twenty-three days after the first phone call, Katherine Yellin finally decided to declare the miracle she received in the Harvest of Hope congregation - because she believe she should proclaim the good news to all mankind. It was almost unbelievable for the rest of the congregation to believe her when she said she got a phone call from her dead sister every Friday. But Katherine Yellin's proclamation was supported by Elias Rowe, who also received a call from heaven.
"You might think a person who brings proof of heaven would be embraced. But even in the presence of a miracle, the human heart will say, Why not me?"
"Wake up! he wanted to say. The living can't speak to the dead! If they could, don't you think I would? Wouldn't I trade my next hundred breaths for one more word from my wife? It's not possible. There is no God who does such things. There is no miracle in Coldwater. It's a trick of some kind, a con, a deceit, a massive hoax!"
This story was like a spark of hope for Amy Penn, a reporter who's waiting for a big leap in her career. She is the first person to approach Katherine and did an exclusive interview with the one who received the call from heaven. When it was broadcasted, people are amazed and seek for the same thing to happen to them. People started coming to Katherine to consult about their deceased loved ones; many from outside Coldwater - even from other countries have been praying on her front yard. It was a massive change for a small town like Coldwater, and it's a major improvement for business.

Like any other stories, there are people who believe in it and there are people who don't. A man named Sullivan Harding, who just got out from prison - and missed his wife's funeral, couldn't believe the news of this miracle. Or he wished he was the one who got a call from his wife. But Sully's heart ache when his son, Jules, keeps on hoping his deceased mother would call him. And so after he started working for the local newspaper - Gazette, he begin his research on this so-called-miracle. He wanted to prove that the phone calls from heaven are not real.
"Maybe some of this was for him, to make him feel like he was doing something with his life; maybe some of it was to make the rest of the world feel the pain that he was feeling, that dead is dead, that Giselle was never making contact again and neither were their mothers or sisters or sons."
image source: here. edited by me.
This is the first time I'm not giving Mitch Albom's book a 5-rating; but it doesn't mean it's not a good book - I just seem to enjoy it less than his other works. But I have to admit, the way Mitch Albom writes a story always successfully grab my attention and tugs at my heartstrings. The title of this book is the main premise of the story; about the first phone call from heaven. Right from the first page, this book already got me hooked in the story. Although I wasn't fully satisfied with this book, it was still a great read for me :))
“What in life can love not penetrate? Mabel Hubbard, deaf since childhood, gave Alexander Bell a piano as a wedding gift and asked that he play it for her every day, as if his music could pierce her silence. Decades later, at Bell’s deathbed, it was his wife who made the sounds, saying the words, “Don’t leave me,” while he, no longer able to talk, used sign language to answer, No.
The story is written in the third-person POV, and it focuses on many characters (too many, I think). I can probably say that the main character in the story would be Sullivan Harding; because his life story is told a lot more compared to the other characters. But unfortunately, because there are a lot of characters to focus on, we didn't get too deep with Sully's story. I would have to say, the middle part of the story feels a little bit slow-paced, because there's not much development in the story. However, as I read the book, it feels like it was a test of faith for me too. The characters in the story are divided into two groups: those who believe and those who don't. As the story goes, the same question goes to me too. I keep wondering what's the truth behind the story, and I guess that's what makes me keep on reading until the end. Mitch Albom also slip in the history of Alexander Graham Bell and the invention of telephone. The best part of the book is the ending! I really really want to write about it here, but I'll restrain myself to avoid spoiler. All I can say is, it's something totally unexpected with an amazing twist. I love how the story turns out a little bit ironically.
"Bad news has no limit. 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."
“You have to start over. That's what they say. But life is not a board game, and losing a loved one is never really "starting over." More like "continuing without.
As I've said earlier, there are a lot of characters in this book - and I think I didn't have a chance to know any of them well enough to choose my favorite. But the character that left the deepest impression in me is Sully; because his life story is one that made me curious. From the start, I keep wondering why did he have to be in prison - is he a criminal? Why did he miss his wife's funeral? What happened to Giselle, and so on. And slowly, Sully's history is revealed little by little. As I know better about him and his love for Giselle, I started to sympathize for this character - because all that happened wasn't his fault; it's just a terrible turns of fate. One of the most heartbreaking part is knowing how much Sully loves Giselle and is overwhelmed with guilt by what happened. And I am touched by Mitch Albom's acknowledgment to his wife, saying: "And every Giselle, Alli, or Marguerite I write is really just Janine. How else could I imagine a love so deep?". Awww.

Overall, it was a pleasant read and I kind of reflected upon myself as I read this book (like I always do when I read Mitch Albom's books). I am a tad bit disappointed with the story, but I definitely wouldn't remove Mitch Albom from my favorite authors list. He's still a great writer and I thoroughly enjoyed every word he wrote in this book. I will keep on waiting for his new works to be published, hopefully soon! :))
“There are two stories for every life; the one you live and the one others tell.”

by.stefaniesugia♥ .

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