The First Phone Call from Heaven
by Mitch Albom (Nov 12, 2013) ****
In this new novel by Mitch Albom, something very curious is happening in the small (fictional) town of Coldwater, a few miles from Lake Michigan.
This is how the book starts:
On the day the world received its first phone call from heaven, Tess Rafferty was unwrapping a box of tea bags.
She heard the machine click on her kitchen counter as it played her outgoing message. “Hi, it’s Tess. Leave your name and number. I’ll get back to you as soon as I can, thanks.” A small beep sounded. Tess heard static. And then. “It’s Mom… I need to tell you something.” Tess stopped breathing. The receiver fell from her fingers. Her mother died four years ago.
It soon turns out that Tess is not the only one in town receiving phone calls from Heaven. A few other “chosen” people are having the same experience; and all clearly recognize the voice of someone they knew very well (but whom they know for sure to be dead). And the thing is - they are not just getting messages, but are able to speak to them, ask questions and receive answers. Not just once, but several times. The information given is always encouraging; but also vague, and the calls are kept short.
The phenomenon is mysterious enough to draw media attention – and cause debate. The town of Coldwater soon becomes the focus of the media nationwide, and even worldwide. Soon there are pilgrims gathering to pray for miracles; but also protesters, claiming it all to be a hoax.
Sully Harding, a single father who lost his wife in a tragic accident, and whose young son now seems to be clinging to the hope of one day getting a call from his mum, is determined to get to the bottom of it all…
Interwoven with the main story are little snippets of the history of the invention of the telephone, and the life of Alexander Graham Bell. For example:
Two years before he invented the telephone, Alexander Bell yelled into a dead man’s ear.
Also interwoven in the flow of the story are quote-worthy statements of spiritual nature, like:
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. But now and then, a miracle is declared to the world. And when that happens, things change.
This three-fold plait of storytelling serves (I think) rather effectively to keep the reader in suspense. All the way, I found my brain (rather futilely) still trying out genre labels: Classic Christianity, spiritualism, psychology, history, technology, science fiction, social satire, puzzle mystery…?
I’m not going to reveal how the whole thing develops. If you find your curiosity tickled, you’ll have to read and find out for yourself… I’ll just say that personally, I found it an enjoyable reading experience. (My spontaneous rating at the end of my Kindle book was to give it four stars.)
Other books by Mitch Albom:
The Time Keeper (2012) (Read my review)
The Five People You Meet in Heaven (2003)
Tuesdays with Morrie (1997)