Everybody wonders where they are going to go when they die. Christians believe that if they believe in God they will go to heaven when they die. Buddhists believe in reincarnation, that their soul will continue in another living organism. These concepts of life after death are interesting and can also be controversial. Author Mary Roach turns away from the spiritual aspect of life after death and does in-depth research on the physical in the book Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers. In this book, Roach introduces the reader to what happens to their physical bodies after they take their last breaths. Some bodies are naturally donated to the science and medical field so students can learn more about how the human body functions. Others are used for unorthodox purposes, like crash test dummies, or even to prove a point about the crucifixion of Jesus. This book was astoundingly factual with a whole lot of comedic relief from some of the more gory sections of the book. The author used footnotes to enrich what she was talking about and I feel that I learned a lot while reading it. It takes a lot of complex writing to make the reader feel nauseous from gore and laughter at the same time. I’ve never been into morbid and gory books but this one was definitely an exception. In my previous posts I have talked about how I really like historical novels, whether it be fiction or nonfiction. This book also involves the historical side of cadavers and I found that really interesting. Now before you judge me for being interested in dead bodies (I’m Hayley, not Hannibal) read the book. I never thought a book about cadavers would be hilarious but this one proved me wrong. Basically, if you are looking to read an educational but hilarious book about dead people, this would be the one to go with. This book has also been considered kind of controversial because of the lighthearted way Roach talks about the dearly departed. I liked it however because we as a society always make death a serious event, at least in America. In Mexico, they celebrate Día de Los Muertos, where they are happy that the deceased had a good life with great memories. If you have read this book, what do you think about the author’s nonchalant perspective on depicting the dead?
Cover title from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Five_People_You_Meet_in_Heaven
In The Five People You Meet in Heaven by Mitch Albom, we read about the simple and mundane life of Eddie, an 83 year old maintenance man at a small amusement park on Ruby Pier. He dies during a freak accident where a ride’s cart comes off of his track. He tries to save a little girl who got near the ride before he killed, not knowing if his actions were helpful. When he gets to heaven, he finds out that he will meet five people there who will tell him why things happened the way they did in his life and teach him some important lessons. The first person he meets is a blue man who was in the sideshow that came to the pier when Eddie was young. He and his friends were playing baseball when the ball rolled into the street. Eddie ran after it, almost getting hit by a car. The car was being driven by the blue man who was just learning how to drive, and with Eddie running into the street, causes him to panic and crash the car, dying. The blue man, Eddie’s first person to meet in heaven, teaches him that everyone is connected in some way. The scene fades out and Eddie is older, in the middle of a jungle. He meets a man named Captain that was in the army when he was. Eddie relives some memories of war, like when he was shot in the knee, causing him to have issues with it for the rest of his life. Captain tells him he shot him to save him from dying in a fire and teaches him that sacrifice is a part of life. The third person who visits him, when he is again feeling older, is a woman who looks very rich. She turns out to be the namesake of the pier that Eddie works at. She married a rich man named Emile who bought the pier, which burned before Eddie was born, causing Emile great depression. Ruby teaches Eddie that holding anger against people will only do harm to yourself, regarding Eddie’s relationship with his father. The fourth person Eddie meets in heaven is the love of his life (and death), his wife Marguerite. The main thing he learns from her is that true love is very strong, considering how he loved her in life and how he yearned for her in death after she had to leave. The fifth person he meets is a young Asian girl named Tala. In the beginning of the story when Eddie is trying to save the little girl, he feels a small pair of hands in his so he is left to wonder if he saved her or if she had the same fate as he did. Tala tells him that it was really her taking him up to heaven and that the little girl is alive. However, she also tells him that she was killed (or as she says “burned”) by him during the war. He learns from her that everything you do affects someone or something. At the end of the story, Eddie is waiting in the amusement park to be another person’s one of five people that they meet in heaven.
This book really taught me the same lessons it taught Eddie. All the lessons he learns are basic, but they are something that we can take away from and think about. However, I don’t really understand why he was taught these simple lessons after he died, although the stories that go with him (like his father’s death) were easier to see why he couldn’t know that at the time it happened. Overall, it was an easy read that taught very good lessons and I really enjoyed it.