The First Phone Call From Heaven by Mitch Albom

(image credit: snapped by DTLCT)

I have to say that this was one of my least favorite books of his. That was saying it lightly because it was filled with disappointment from the start. Not just because it seemed typical and too unbelievable, but I always came into his book full of hope and often left with just that. His books were always reassuring and a place for me to fall back on because they never forced one to believe. This one went against all of that and implied that it was okay to be manipulated. Then the whole thing with only believing will gain you the access to Heaven. Or the so-called concept of Heaven. I’m sooooo sorry if I stepped on a lot of feet, but I felt the true victim of the story stayed that way, which was Sully. If it wasn’t for the old man who tried to play God from the start, Sully wouldn’t end up in that mess. Then at the end when he had the accident and ended up becoming a believer, it was also that manipulative old man’s fault since if it wasn’t for the web of lies he created, the place wouldn’t end up in such chaos, so many people, nowhere to go any way you turned, causing so much traffic congestion thus Sully ended up in another mess. The whole guilt trip thing didn’t help either, considering how Sully didn’t want to affect his kid. So yes, sorry once again for taking it out of the worse, but from all the lot that participated in the madness, aside from Sully, I only liked Tess and Jack. I felt they were real in the way they reacted. Although I had no problem with some of the other characters, such as Elias Rowe, I felt he also got railed into the whole guilt trip hence having to take on the burden. Because seriously? People got fired every single day, then it was this guy’s fault that he had to take on such deeds? Well, he did promise Pastor Warren so he couldn’t back down. Talking about Pastor Warren, he was probably my favorite character in here (and he didn’t participate in the whole madness willingly). Why? He was the only one keeping his faith right from the beginning but wasn’t blind to it. He stayed real and kept it consistent throughout, not wanting to take advantage of getting some fame or wanting any type of attention from it. What surprised Sully at one point was that Pastor Warren actually agreed with him, and Pastor Warren even stating that there was some sort of unnatural feeling to all of that. Yes, considering how it was manipulated. I think Doreen’s reaction captured the moment perfectly during the part where she finally had enough and ended up disconnecting her phone, just wanting peace. She felt glad at first and happy even to hear her son’s voice again, but she soon realized it wasn’t enough. It wasn’t like he was coming back to her. It wasn’t like she could hold him in her arms again.

The other thing that made me want to roll my eyes even more was the whole madness with Katherine Yellin. I understood and sympathized with her and how her sister had died–as I did with the majority of the ones who got the calls in here. What I didn’t like wasn’t her wanting to prove that Heaven existed and her sister called her, but it was the fact that she was upset when she found out Tess was actually the first one to receive the call. Wow, really? Considering how she was a believer, I thought she would be more kind and accepting, and wouldn’t be so egotistical to think that she was the chosen one. Then there was Father Carroll–who was more than happy when he learned the first call from Heaven was actually from a member of his church. The so-called people of the church didn’t care for Tess or her mother at all, especially what her mother had gone through in the past YET now wanting to claim credit that their church had the first calling? Really? I totally understand why Tess finally came out with it, because her mother would want her to–and she felt she owe it to her mother. However, did it matter where it occurred or who got the call first? Did it matter that much? That was why I liked Pastor Warren the most, and how he reacted to the whole situation. The exchange between him and Elias Rowe was probably the best lines from the book–with Elias asking, “Does this prove what we believe?” and Pastor Warren responded, “If you believe it, you don’t need proof.” And then Pastor Warren died alone that night. The man had served the community and honored God for so long yet his ending was that? Yes, I’m seriously petty for thinking he minded because his purpose was only to spread the words, not bask in fame. But I felt that was just too sad and tragic. So his mourning wasn’t accepted by me because it felt like they threw it in the last minute, after having chased after all of the other illusions.

What was that with the old man justifying his actions by stating that each and every one of the so-called “chosen ones” all wanted to hear from their loved ones again? Seriously? He was a coward to not step out and prevent Sully from being imprisoned in the first place. (Even if he already destroyed the evidence and couldn’t make others believe him YET at least step out. Staying silent like that and causing a man to be wrongly accused and losing his freedom. Sully was already in it for the alcohol level thing. He didn’t need another major event crashing down on him too.) He was the one who caused all of this and then went and died alone, not brave enough to face Sully. Instead, he uttered some vague words to Sully when Sully showed up to confront him. Then there was the whole letter. Seriously? That was one of the reasons why I didn’t care for it. Not even an ounce of sympathy on my side. I don’t care if I missed the point either. I don’t like manipulations.

The last point I want to make had to do with Tess and Jack. I liked it that they ended up together and had a new start. However, I didn’t like how it was implied that because of this so-called miracle that they found someone to replace the ones whom they lost. Seriously? Everyone’s IRREPLACEABLE, you can’t replace someone regardless of the reason. I liked that they found each, that was it. It was like saying it was all right that all of someone’s family members died, maybe another family will come along to replace that one. REALLY? Yes, I couldn’t let that one go either. Not saying they should always live in the past. Eventually, everyone should move on, because there are many things in life to live for. But it doesn’t mean anyone or anything could replace someone important in one’s life.

To me, faith isn’t forced. It’s supposed to be a choice, something peaceful that should bring hope to you, not a reason to fight over. So no, I don’t agree with all the protesters causing trouble either, but I just don’t agree with the whole shoving things down people’s throats either.

After all that was said in this post (and probably just a bunch of “blah blah blah” to others), I still think Mitch Albom is an excellent writer. It was just that the theme was a major miss for me. And opinions are different, obviously, so you might have a different perspective regarding it than me. Be your own judge and find out for yourselves.