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Book Review: The First Phone Call from Heaven by Mitch Albom

Firstly, I hope you all had a wonderful Christmas, managed to relax and spend time with your loved ones. 

I’m using that weird lull in between Christmas and New Year to catch up on a few posts, the past couple of weeks have predictably run away me and I once again find myself behind, I’m determined not to start 2023 on the back foot, so I’d better crack on.

The First Phone Call from Heaven, is the third Mitch Albom book to make it to my read list this year.

Each of his books, or the ones I have read anyway, tackle the idea of faith.

Don’t be put off by that; they aren’t heavy on religion, they aren’t filled with scripture or tales of morality, they aren’t long lectures about God. They are simple, thought-provoking tales about faith and belief, The First Phone Call from Heaven is no different.

Set in the small town of Coldwater Michigan, a handful of residents start receiving phone calls from their loved ones, all of whom have been dead for years.

Katherine Yellin, decides to tell the world about the miracle, believing that’s what her dead sister is telling her to do in their phone calls.

Journalist Amy, desperate for her big break, follows the story and soon the eyes of the world are on Coldwater.

Everyone is whipped into a state of frenzy, there are believers, there are protestors, there’s jealousy, there’s the world’s media, there are people who more than happy to capitalise on what may or may not happening in Coldwater.

And then there’s Sully, a grief-stricken single father who will stop at nothing to prove that the phone calls are indeed with world’s biggest hoax…..

This, like most of Mitch Albom’s books, is such a captivating read and to be honest, up until the end I couldn’t really decide which ending I’d have been happiest with, the logical answer or the fairy-tale.

Without giving anything away, I ended this book satisfied.

There are a lot of characters to keep track of and this is a story told from various perspectives, I know some readers will hate that, but for me it added to the debate going on throughout this book, it added different layers to the arguments.

I liked how differently people reacted to their phone calls. Tess, the fallen catholic, wasn’t inspired to go running back to church, instead she opened up her home to strangers and offered comfort, just like her mother used to.

Jack Sellers – the local police chief – enjoys speaking to his son who was killed in Afghanistan, while for his ex-wife it serves to cause her more pain, the phone calls don’t change reality.

For others the phone calls increase their feelings of guilt. They make them examine their past actions; the phone calls are not a comfort at all.

And then there’s Sully, mourning his wife and trying to raise his son Jules. When Jules starts to pin his hopes on getting a phone call from his mum, Sully sets out on a journey to find out what is really going on in Coldwater. 

He believes it’s the only way to protect his son from disappointment, he doesn’t want to Jules to be hurt when that phone call doesn’t come.

What Sully doesn’t realise though, is what damage destroying that hope could potentially do, not just to his son.

Sully has his own mysterious demons to contend with. I liked how his backstory and what had happened to Giselle, was slowly revealed throughout this book. That along with his determination to find out what was really happening kept me gripped.

At the same time, I was questioning the miracle/hoax too. 

I was firmly in the camp of ‘miracles do not happen’ when actually, what Mitch Albom reminds us, is that they do. They may not be phone calls from heaven, but millions of miracles happen every day, we just take them for granted.

“Miracles happen quietly every day – in an operating room, on a stormy sea, in the sudden appearance of a roadside stranger. They are rarely tallied. No one keeps score.” Mitch Albom

I guess I’d probably come down on the cynical side of the debate. I, like Sully, would think the town had gone completely mad. Yet I didn’t see any harm in it. 

I wouldn’t be determined to prove myself right and expose the world’s greatest hoax because why take away comfort from someone, why steal their hope, why destroy someone else’s faith? That seems cruel.

I guess it’s fitting I read this so close to Christmas. It reminded me of a quote from Miracle on 34th Street, “Faith is believing when common sense tells you not to”, that has to be a better way to live, rather than having to have concrete evidence for everything.

After all, ‘what is false about hope’.

radiosarahc View All

Journalist, writer, traveller, music lover, collector of hats, news addict, bookworm

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