Coming off the back of Pride and Prejudice, I needed something that was short, easy to read and straight to the point. This book promised all of these things. It delivered… but I was left with an uneasy feeling that the story could have been so much better. That it was almost a very good book.
The positives are many. For one, it’s a brilliant concept: that, at the moment of your death, you meet five integral people from your life to help you realise things about your life. Two, the characters are interesting. Three, the story is revealed slowly throughout without pages of info-dump.
But I didn’t love it.
I’ve been racking my brain to work out what made me respond this way. And I’ve been struggling for weeks now with how to articulate it. On the surface there’s nothing wrong with the story. There’s everything right with the story.
And that’s the problem. Mitch Albom builds the story so well that my expectations shot through the roof. I had no choice at the end of the book but to feel… well… disappointed.
Maybe my expectations could never be met in a situation like this.
Maybe I’m better off reading a story that has serious flaws and then being pleasantly surprised with the ending. That, in a way, seems much more enjoyable.
And now I’m disappointed in myself for even thinking that way. That I’d prefer to be ‘dumbed down’ in a way to feel that thrill of surprise at the end of the book. Or maybe the ending needs to be just a little predictable for it to be satisfying to the audience.
A-ha! That could be the second problem. In The Five People You Meet in Heaven, the ending, in particular the fifth person he meets, was a total surprise to me. I didn’t predict it one bit. The ending was too clever for me. I felt outsmarted… even cheated.
And no reader wants to feel that.
Still, it’s a worthy inclusion on the 100 book challenge list. And a book I think everyone should read.
Even if it’s just to test how smart you are at predicting cleverly built up yet obscure endings.
In July 2014 I set myself the challenge to finish 100 must-read books before I die. For my ongoing tally click here.