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Book Review - ‘The First Phone Call from Heaven’

The call almost scared you half to death.

First of all, it woke you up and everybody knows that middle-of-the-night phone calls are never good news. Secondly, you were sound asleep and third, who calls a wrong number at 3 a.m.?

It took you awhile to get back to sleep that night. You cursed the phone as soon as the alarm went off, but read “The First Phone Call from Heaven” by Mitch Albom and you might look differently at the device next time.

Tess Rafferty was occupied with a kitchen task when her phone rang. Irritated, she let her answering machine pick up the call, but when she heard the voice on the speaker, she stopped everything she was doing.

It was her mother on the phone.

Her mother had been dead for four years.

Katherine Yellin was the first to talk about her phone call because her sister, Diane — dead at age 46 — had told her to speak up. Then Tess admitted she’d gotten calls, too, and by weeks’ end, six people from little Coldwater, Mich., had received phone calls from heaven.

Soon, Coldwater residents weren’t the only ones to know about the miracle.

Over in nearby Alpena, the local TV station sent one of their disposable reporters to see what was going on. Amy Penn wasn’t a believer, but she figured the best way to escape weekend shifts at the station was to scoop an exclusive story.

Once the national media heard about the phone calls from heaven, though, that wasn’t easy to do. Believers, the faithful and the prayerful crowded into Coldwater, hoping to hear from their own loved ones beyond.

Sullivan “Sully” Harding thought they were all fools. There was no heaven, no bliss, no peace. He knew that, because the best woman he’d ever known had been taken from him, his son was now motherless, and this “heaven” stuff was a scam. He had time on his hands, and he planned to find whoever was doing this to his neighbors, to expose the hoax.

And then Sully’s phone began to ring…

“The First Phone Call from Heaven” reminded me of one of those movies that you could easily watch every night for the rest of your life.

The beginning characters in this book come from all walks of life: they’re normal people who just happen to be getting what every grief-stricken person wants. Then author Mitch Albom drops a non-believer into the situation and he lets us watch everything twist and unravel in the midst of media sensationalism, mob mentality, half-truths, fervent faith and painful realizations that may or may not be valid. It’s uncomfortable to watch, mostly because you know what’s going to happen to them, to their town and to the phone calls that come a little too on-schedule.

Yes, this book is predictable but it’s also entertaining, uplifting, and it can be shared with pretty much anybody. And if that’s what you need to read this week, “The First Phone Call from Heaven” is a good call.

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“The First Phone Call from Heaven” by Mitch Albom

c.2013, Harper $24.99 / $32.99 Canada 272 pages

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