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The First Phone Call from Heaven: A Novel Paperback – Deckle Edge, October 21, 2014

4.3 out of 5 stars 2,770 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Author One-on-One: Nicholas Sparks and Mitch Albom

Nicholas SparksMitch Albom

Nicholas Sparks is the best-selling author of several beloved novels, with over 80 million copies in print worldwide. His most recent release is The Longest Ride.

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.

--This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

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.) --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Harper Paperbacks; Reprint edition (October 21, 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0062294407
  • ISBN-13: 978-0062294401
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.8 x 7.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 10.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2,770 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #53,655 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
Mitch Albom is one of those authors who could write about any topic under the sun and make it drop-dead amazing. He captivated readers in the past with his original stories, stunning attention to personal detail, and an unembellished, but deeply poignant style, and in his newest novel, he once again works his rare magic, reclaiming his title as my most cherished inspirational and literary fiction writer.

The First Phone Call from Heaven intimately follows the lives of the chosen children, parents, and spouses of Coldwater whose lives are forever altered when they receive phone calls from those they are mourning... their dead loved ones. Sparking extreme media interest and frenzied support, as well as protest from those who cannot let go of the controversy of divine voices coming through man-made technology, these phone calls become the world's biggest spectacle—except to Sully Harding, who is past skepticism, and now is just downright angry with the nonsense. The sudden "miracle" is giving his young son false hope, and it's making it impossible for a non-believer like him to come to terms with his wife's tragic death; through town resources and the cooperation of his community members, he is determined to expose the phone calls as an utter hoax.

But in the end, we beg to ask: Does it really matter whether the phone calls are actually a miracle from up above, or if they're a worldly intervention? After all, they are the best thing that's happened to Coldwater, and better yet, they're giving lost souls on Earth a chance to reconnect with the lost souls in heaven, and accept the notion of death.
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Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
I haven't read anything else by Mitch Albom, but this book was definitely a einner in my book. Each character receiving a phone call is sympathetically portrayed, and each person's reaction sounds very authentic. I especially like the way Sully is slowly brought out and developed as an important character to especially watch. The bits about Alexander Graham Bell provide an informative background.

I expected to be let down by the ending, but instead found the conclusion quite masterful. My only criticism is that parts of the book seem a bit padded with repetition and serve to drag the story out a bit. I wish writers today didn't equate length with quality. There's no harm in a good story being short as long as we are given the whole story and a reasonable exposition of the main character's values and emotions.
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Format: Hardcover
What if you picked up the phone and you heard the voice of a loved one who had passed away? When a few people in Coldwater, Michigan started getting phone calls from their dead family members, there were plenty of skeptics, but the ones who got the calls had no doubt that they were hearing their loved ones' voices, and when word got out, the whole world wanted to hear more.

Mitch Albom is best know for his powerful non-fiction, especially Tuesdays with Morrie. In The First Phone Call from Heaven, he has some fun imagining the impact a phone call from heaven might have. As word spread, pilgrims overran Coldwater, hoping for their own line to heaven. While few got their call, and some complained about the traffic and inconvenience, "there was also talk about heaven. And faith. And God. There were more prayers said than in years past. More requests for forgiveness. The volunteers for soup kitchens far exceeded the need."

Albom plays the calls along, hinting through the doubts of the main character that they may not be genuine, but leaving the reader little reason to think that they aren't for real. He balances the mystery with the reality of lives changed. The hardened reporter for the local paper reflects on whether the calls are good for Coldwater: "Let's see. People are behaving better, eh? We haven't even had a shoplifting incident since all this started. . . . [E]very seat in church is full. People praying like never before. So what do you think. . . ? Is it good?" Yet his cynicism causes him to doubt.

With his rich characterizations of both the individual players and of small-town life, Albom tells the kind of story he's known for, full of wisdom, a strong dose of sentimentality, and a warm feeling of satisfaction with the end.
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Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Mitch Albom delivers another testament of faith in "The First Phone Call From Heaven." 15 years ago we didn't conceptualize technology to be integrated into spirituality but here it is. The town Clearwater (which reminds me of a clothing catalogue) has residents who are getting cell phone calls from the deceased - calls that are filled with hope, challenges and love.
Albom chooses some of the most angst characters as call recipients, as predicted to make his story move.

Albom does an awesome job on demonstrating how the media impresses our lives. I enjoyed how the media was pulled into what started off as a quack story and immediately spiraled into a mass movement. As a geek Albom incorporates history of the invention of the first telephone into this story and how that was also one of faith and love. I also enjoy how the religious representations in this story cannot and for reasons will not let go and let God. If we are made in God's likeness, I'm sure he would pick up a call phone...

My favorite part of the story is one where one of the call recipients removes all phone receivers from her home - she wants her dead son to stay dead. The balance of pros and cons in this story is wonderfully needed.

Another spiritual provoking work from Albom that ties in with today's technology. Once again Albom demonstrates that this is hell, where we go is so much better; filled with hope and love. I'm waiting to get my "Wish you were here post card" from a deceased loved one!;) Albom makes us question that 'UNKNOWN' in our lives is really known.

My only static - pun intended. The story could have been about 30 pages less.
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