Books That Hurt Your Brain (In a Good Way)

I know what you’re thinking, finally a review on Rave Review Tuesday. I finished my annual reread of Harry Potter, which means I’ll have some more time freed up to read/watch and review new material. I already have another idea lined up for next week’s post!

Though I’ve had a Nook for a couple of years now, I haven’t taken advantage of the perks until now. I finally cleared my library debt-side note- WHY is it so hard for me to return books on time? I worked at a library for four years!

Regardless, I am a free woman and was able connect the Nook to the e-resources. There was a plethora of options, which was frustrating in the beginning because every one of my choices were already taken out. Once I figured out the filter button, I saw Mitch Albom’s new book The First Phone Call From Heaven on the first page and was excited.

Albom’s The Five People You Meet in Heaven is one of my favorite books. His writing style and premises are intriguing because they center on the spiritual without being preachy. In his books, he features complicated characters and mixed emotions that are very real.

Before even reading the book, I wondered how I might react receiving a phone call from Heaven and the answer is more complicated than I would initially think. While ultimately I think I would be overjoyed, my feelings would also range from terrified to skeptical. When a loved one dies, there is the anxious beating in your heart that yearns for just one more conversation, one last hug, to even see them one last time. He correlates these desires with the idea of Heaven and the comfort it offers, or quite the opposite for others.

At the finish, I can’t say I have a definitive answer for how I would react, but I don’t think that was the idea of it. The premise is to make you think while reading and after you’ve finished, and I would say that Albom accomplished this feat.

The book itself is not complicated, but an easy, quick read that was enjoyable. There were many characters who were the focus and it kept going back and forth to show each perspective, but I didn’t find it difficult to remember them. My investment in the story might have been emphasized in the actual storyline, but I did care about the characters, their feelings, and how the phone calls affected them.

While reading, observing how the characters’ react to the news that a small town in the mid-west was receiving phone calls from deceased loved ones, I found my own opinions floating between them. Each character, whether central or in the background, had a very strong reaction to the phone calls and it was easy to understand why and how they would feel this way.

I like reading stories that make me question my own vantage point and help me to understand others. People and their motives are not easily understood in real life, which makes literary- or fictional in general- characters that much more compelling. When reading, watching, or observing, I want to care about the characters, but I also don’t want them to be perfect. I want to see them going through simple daily tribulations, as well as mysterious events that wouldn’t necessarily happen in real life. Throughout, I want to be surprised and disappointed in them. And I want the story to drive them to places where I *probably* will never be, but they help me wander down that road in my imagination.

I won’t spoil the story in any way, but I will say that I was satisfied by the ending. This has proved difficult lately whether in books or movies. I often find endings to be too cheesy or dissatisfying. Sometimes I’ll feel cheated or rushed, or maybe I’m just sad the story is over. I blame the writer in me for this as lately I find myself rolling my eyes or tossing the book aside unceremoniously. In this case, however, I was very pleased, despite being worried about the ending throughout.

Once, I chose to read a book from the back cover that summarized the story. The mystery was exposed right there and left me so curious that I just kept flipping through the pages, waiting so anxious to see how it would end. I had to prevent myself from screwing it all and going right to the back to find what happened. The mystery was so interesting that I was worried the entire time that whatever the answer would be, it could never be enough for the curiosity it piqued in me. In the end, I think the author took the same route of thinking because it was never concluded. There wasn’t even a hint of implication. It was just, “Oh, it was never solved.” To this day, I can’t decide if that was a stroke of genius or a cop-out because she couldn’t come up with anything good enough. I was so angry I threw the book across the room and made my mother read it too so I had someone in which to sympathize.

Connecting that rant to the topic, I didn’t throw Albom’s book across the room. And that’s all I’ll say about that.

If you are interested in reading about the spiritual in a manner that offers you context and a thinking point, but also lets you think and establish a perspective of your own, then I suggest reading Albom’s books. In the Five People You Meet in Heaven, I connected with the main characters more and cared more about where and how they ended up then the actual plot, but in The First Phone Call From Heaven, it was the opposite.

Regardless of what is what, I think it’s a mark of a good author when the reader is so captivated they don’t even allow the sounds of construction crunching down around them. I would even state on record that Albom is one of my favorite authors, though we know, without a doubt, who holds the title of absolute favorite. And if you can’t determine that without me telling you, then you have a quite a bit of reading to do going back in my blog!

Let me end by posing a question (which could have embarrassing results if no one responds). How would you react to a phone call from Heaven?

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