Reading Guide Questions
Please be aware that this discussion guide may contain spoilers!
- At the start of The Five People You Meet in Heaven, Albom says that
"all endings are also beginnings." In general, what does this mean?
How does it relate to this story in particular? Share something in your life
that has begun as another thing ended, and the events that followed.
- What initially grabs your attention in The Five People You Meet in
Heaven? What holds it?
- How does counting down the final minutes of Eddie's life affect you as a
reader? Why does Albom do this? Other storytelling devices Albom uses include
moving from past to present by weaving Eddie's birthdays throughout the story.
How do these techniques help inform the story? What information do you learn by
moving around in time? How effective is Albom's style for this story in
- What does Eddie look like and what kind of guy is he? Look at and discuss
some of the details and descriptions that paint a picture of Eddie and his place
of business. What is it about an amusement park that makes it a good backdrop
for this story?
- Consider the idea that "no story sits by itself. Sometimes stories
meet at corners and sometimes they cover one another completely, like stones
beneath a river." How does this statement relate to The Five People You
Meet in Heaven?
- How does Albom build tension around the amusement park ride accident? What
is the significance of Eddie finding himself in the amusement park again after
he dies? What is your reaction when Eddie realizes he's spent his entire life
trying to get away from Ruby Pier and he is back there immediately after death?
Do you think this is important? Why?
- Describe what Albom's heaven is like. If it differs from what you
imagined, share those differences. Who are the five people Eddie meets? Why
them? What are their relationships to Eddie? What are the characteristics and
qualities that make them the five people for Eddie?
- Share your reactions and thoughts about the Blue Man's story, his
relationship with his father, and his taking silver nitrate. What, if anything,
does this have to do with Eddie? Why does he say to Eddie, "This is not
your heaven, it's mine"?
- How does the Blue Man die? What affect does it have on you when you look
at the same story from two different points of view - his and Eddie's? Can
you share any events that you have been involved in that can be viewed entirely
differently, from another's point of view? How aware are we of other's
experiences of events that happen simultaneously to us and to them? Why?
- Discuss what it means that "That there are no random acts. That we
are all connected. That you can no more separate one life from another than you
can separate a breeze from the wind." Even though Eddie hasn't been
reincarnated, consider karma in Eddie's life (where Eddie's actions would affect
his reincarnation). If it isn't karma, what is Albom telling us about life, and
- Think about Eddie's war experiences and discuss your reactions to Albom's
evocation of war. What did Eddie learn by being in war? How did he "come
home a different man"? Why did the captain shoot Eddie? Explore what it
means when the captain tells Eddie, "I took your leg to save your
life." Why does the captain tell Eddie that sacrifice is not really a loss,
but a gain? Examine whether or not Eddie understands this, and the significance
of this lesson.
- Discuss what you might say to Eddie when he asks "why would heaven
make you relive your own decay?".
- Examine whether or not you agree with the old woman when she tells Eddie,
"You have peace when you make it with yourself," and why. Consider
what she means when she says, "things that happen before you are born still
affect you. And people who come before your time affect you as well." How
does this relate to Eddie's life? Who are some who have come before you that
have affected your own life?
- What is Eddie's father's response each time Eddie decides to make an
independent move, away from working at the pier? Examine how Eddie's father's
choices and decisions actually shape Eddie's life. Why does Eddie cover for his
father at the pier when his father becomes ill? What happens then? Share your
own experience of a decision your own parents made that affected your life, for
better or for worse.
- Who tells Eddie that "we think that hating is a weapon that attacks
the person who harmed us. But hatred is a curved blade. And the harm we do we do
to ourselves"? What is the significance of this particular person in
Eddie's life? Why is this important for Eddie to understand? Is it important for
all of us to understand? Why? Discuss whether or not you agree that, "all
parents damage their children. It cannot be helped." How was Eddie damaged?
- Why does Marguerite want to be in a place where there are only weddings?
How does this relate to her own life, and to her relationship and life with
- Discuss why Eddie is angry at his wife for dying so young. Examine what
Marguerite means when she says, "Lost love is still love. It takes a
different form. You can't see their smile or bring them food or tousle their
hair or move them around on the dance floor. But when these senses waken,
another heightens. . . . Life has an end. Love doesn't." Why does she say
this to Eddie? Do you think he gets it? Discuss whether or not you agree with
her, and why.
- Why does Eddie come upon the children in the river? What does Tala mean
when she says "you make good for me"? Discuss whether or not Eddie's
life is a penance, and why. What is the significance of Tala pulling Eddie to
safety after he dies? Why is it Tala that pulls him to heaven and not one of the
- What would you say to Eddie when he laments that he accomplished nothing
with his life? Discuss what has he accomplished.
- Briefly recall the five lessons Eddie learns. How might these be
important for all of us? Share which five people might meet you in heaven, and
what additional or different lessons might be important to your life. Discuss
how Albom's The Five People You Meet in Heaven has provided you with a
different perspective of your life.
Copyright © 2003 Mitch Albom. All Rights Reserved.
Unless otherwise stated, this discussion guide is reprinted with the permission of Hyperion.
Any page references refer to a USA edition of the book, usually the trade paperback version, and may vary in other editions.