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The First Phone Call from Heaven: A Novel Hardcover – Deckle Edge, November 12, 2013
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Author One-on-One: Nicholas Sparks and Mitch Albom
Nicholas Sparks: We first met years ago, when Tuesdays with Morrie and The Notebook were just out. What’s been the most surprising turn for your career since that day?
Mitch Albom: Pretty much everything. Tuesdays was the first nonsports thing I had done, and it was written only to pay Morrie’s medical bills. I figured I’d return to sportswriting. I never imagined novels or the audience I’ve been blessed to find. I remember you hoping The Notebook would give you more chances to write. I think you’ve done OK with that, by the way.
NS: Thanks. With this new novel, The First Phone Call from Heaven, heaven once again figures prominently—as it did in The Five People You Meet in Heaven. How do you use it differently this time?
MA: Five People mostly takes place in heaven, to teach Eddie, the protagonist, to appreciate his life on earth. First Phone Call takes place in a small town, with the idea of heaven reaching out to us down here—through the phone.
NS: You wove the story of Alexander Graham Bell’s invention of the telephone into this novel. Do you see parallels between that and our modern-day obsession with cell phones? How did this influence your story development?
MA: People scoffed at the telephone’s invention. Yet once it was introduced, its growth was astronomical. Same thing with cell phones. I used this to show how the “once impossible” is quickly forgotten. Could the same be true about speaking to heaven?
NS: Hearing from a deceased loved one is such a powerful idea. Whom would you talk to if you had the chance? And if Morrie from Tuesdays with Morrie were one, what would you ask him?
MA: My mother is still alive, but has suffered several strokes and can’t speak. I wish I could dial to the past and engage in one of our long, impassioned, all-over-the-place talks. And Morrie? Well. He never got to read a page of Tuesdays. I’d ask if he is pleased. Am I doing OK by him? Mostly, I’d like to hear his laughter. I think we miss laughter most.
NS: This is the first novel you’ve written with a mystery/thriller element. Did that change your writing process at all? And is this how you think the world would really react—global fascination—if proof of heaven were somehow revealed?
MA: It felt quite natural to weave a mystery—perhaps from all those years’ writing sports that count down and reach a climax. And yes, I definitely think if a town today claimed to be talking to heaven, it would be on twenty-four hours a day on cable news and the Internet. Look at the Susan Boyle story. In a week, the whole world knew of her—and she just sang like an angel. Imagine talking to one!
NS: Small towns—like Coldwater in First Phone Call—often paint the backdrop of your novels. Why?
MA: I was raised in a small town—local high school, one great pizza place, everyone knowing everyone. So it’s familiar. Also, secrets in a small town are hard to keep—and often shocking when revealed. My stories are about people—and sometimes secrets. A small town is a good canvas.
NS: Now that you have so many more books than just Morrie—unlike when we first met—do you have a favorite among them?
MA: Tuesdays will always be my favored child—because it so changed my life. But storywise, Five People means a great deal, because everyone told me I was crazy—don’t write a novel. I broke every piece of advice. And people embraced the story. That’s extremely rewarding.
From Publishers Weekly
Starred Review. Albom (The Five People You Meet in Heaven) has a nose for thin places: places where the boundary between secular and sacred is porous, and ultimate meaning is easier to encounter. In his new novel, Coldwater, Mich., is this thin place, a town where people who have lost loved ones begin receiving phone calls from the dead in heaven. Sully Harding's wife died while he was in prison, and their young son, Jules, hopes his mom will call, even while Sully smells a hoax. Albom weaves a thread of satire into a narrative braided from the lives of smalltown residents; Coldwater becomes a media hotspot as well as battleground for religious and antireligious zealots, all awaiting the revelation they expect. A historical thread—popping into the narrative like a change-up in baseball—deals with Alexander Graham Bell's invention of the telephone and how the instrument came to be the premier human connector. This brisk, page-turner of a story climaxes at Christmas. Another winner from Albom; this book just about shouts Give me for a holiday gift. Agent: David Black, David Black Agency. (Nov.)
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One can easily see how the claim that so many folks from the same area had all received phone calls from "heaven" from their loved ones.. would put every person out there on the path to a little town in the middle of no where.. in hopes that they too.. could speak with their loved ones who have crossed over.
This book is not religious. I think that was the biggest surprise. It's about what may lay on the "other" side.. but, takes no mankind fixed religion over any other. It's inspirational without being preachy. Totally enjoyed it. In some ways.. It brought it's own comfort. And, any book that can do that.. is one that deserves an audience!
The plot centers on the sudden onset of phone calls from deceased loved ones received by a handful of people in the small town of Coldwater, Michigan. The voices on the phone are unmistakably those of these beloved spirits and provide short but powerful comments about life and the afterlife to the recipients. As word leaks out, reporters, photographers, believers, and protestors descend on the town creating their own chaos and questions. Are these calls really being made from Heaven? Are they legitimate? Do they prove the existence of a Heavenly afterlife? Are they some kind of elaborate hoax? Why would someone do such a thing? How could it be? Why are all the calls to residents of one area and always on Fridays? Why do some who long for contact with their lost loved ones not favored with calls?
If you enjoy your fiction with a big dose of inspiration, this book is for you. I found the mystery to be quite involving even as I was touched deeply by the feelings of the characters in this unlikely story.
Considered simply as a mystery story, the book delivers interesting and sympathetic characters, some believable red herrings, a strong sense of time and place, and a couple of unexpected twists and turns. Considered as an inspirational discussion, the book delivers a good number of "wow" moments, unexpected insights about spiritual matters, and pithy points of wisdom. Taken together, there is much to recommend in this book. Whether you believe spirits can contact people living physical lives or you maintain a skeptical or unbelieving attitude, I heartily recommend you get this book and read it with an open mind. It may change your thinking and it will definitely caress your heart.
By Paul McCright, Author of "Heaven Talks"
In this latest novel, he employs a familiar pattern that he has used in quite a few of his novels before. He tells the stories of a number of persons, mostly unrelated, while developing in parallel. The different stories would converge at some point, of course. In the meantime, he is so good at creating suspense that the reader is kept on the edge of his seat. Once you pick up his book, you want to read through it from cover to cover. On top of that, the characters he creates and the story that he tells reflect a deep understanding of human nature. One cannot help but empathise with his characters.
Yes, this is another novel about communicating with the afterlife. That thought somewhat turned me off at first. Should someone with Albom's creative writing talent not at least try telling a story about something else? That said, I must say that there are enough twists and turns in the story to keep one captivated.
In short, this is an engrossing novel that I would recommend. I hope that he would try writing on a different subject in future, though.
We live in the day and age of smartphones. Ever wondered HOW smart are they? Smart enough to put through a call from Heaven?
Picture this. You are going about your daily chores, and your phone rings. You answer. On the other end, is the voice of your deceased loved one. No, it’s not an imitation by someone, and no you are not dreaming this up. It IS really their voice and they ARE really having a conversation with you. How do you respond to this? That is the premise of this book.
It follows the lives of the “chosen ones” in Coldwater, Michigan whose lives are forever altered when they receive phone calls from their loved ones–their DEAD loved ones! Sparking extreme media interest, while drawing frenzied supporters and angry protesters in equal parts, these phone calls become the world’s biggest spectacle!
Read the full review @ http://shanayatales.com/the-first-phone-call-from-heaven-by-mitch-albom-book-review/