Monday, December 9, 2013

The First Phone Call from Heaven

I'm crying as I type up this review.  For the past few years, I've kept a phone message from my mother from May of 2011. She passed away less than a month later, of cancer.  In the message, she's telling me that her most recent cancer treatment was okay.  She's reassuring me, as she often did. (After her first chemo treatment, about ten months earlier, she called me on my cell, to let me know that it was tolerable.)  Her message is definitely a "keeper", a connection to her that I want to save, forever.  When I need to hear my mother's voice, I listen to her last message.  The power of hearing someone's voice is very great, very real.

Something extraordinary happens in  The First Phone Call from Heaven, the new book by Mitch Albom, published in 2013.  The people of Coldwater, Michigan, begin to get phone calls from deceased loved ones.  Coldwater is just another ordinary small town, until the phone calls begin.  Phone calls from heaven.  

  • Tess Rafferty's deceased mother, Ruth, calls and leaves a message on the answering machine for her daughter.
  • Police chief Jack Sellers gets a call from his deceased son, Robbie, who tells him not to worry.
  • Katherine Yellin excitedly tells Pastor Warren that she's received a call from Diane, her deceased sister. 

This is just the beginning of the calls from heaven.  Initially the calls are met with shock and disbelief, but this changes into joy and anticipation and excitement as time goes on, for most of the recipients. They relish hearing the voices of their loved ones, and they relish their words. The deceased tell loved ones not to worry, that they are at peace, that heaven is magnificent. The dead are miraculously able to communicate, by phone, with their loved ones.

Katherine decides to share the amazing news and tells the congregation at the Harvest of Hope congregation about her phone calls from her sister, which began three weeks earlier.  She tells them that Diane's soul is alive in heaven, and that she's been calling regularly.  The town is suddenly cast into the spotlight, and the whole character of Coldwater quickly changes as a result of people's reactions and invasive media attention which focuses on the phone calls from heaven.

But some people, including Sully Harding, who's suffering because his wife, Giselle, died tragically, thinks the calls are a hoax, while Sully's young son, Jules, wishes that his mom would call from heaven.  Many suspend their skepticism and want to believe that the calls are real, because the calls reassure them and indicate that a beautiful heaven awaits.  The book brought to mind The Miracle on 34th Street, a movie I've loved since I was a child.  To believe or not to believe, that is the question.  As a reader, I wanted to believe.    

I'm a big fan of Mitch Albom's work, so I was thrilled to be among the first to read this book (an uncopyedited manuscript I'm not to quote from).  I've read Tuesdays with Morrie, The Five People You Meet in Heaven,  For One More Day, and Have a Little Faith.  Books written by Mitch Albom always manage to engage my emotions.  His books get to me, because he writes about belief and faith and life and death, in an eloquent, intelligent, and loving manner.  This time, I felt as if I were rediscovering the author and his tremendous talents as a storyteller.  While reading the book, I imagined how'd I feel if my mother called me from heaven.  She'd sound as cheerful as she always did, and although she wouldn't stay on the phone for too long (she never did), she'd convey her care and concern for me.

The First Phone Call from Heaven is an incredibly inspiring story about what happens to people when they hear from their deceased loved ones.  Will this astonishing communication with the deceased incite the residents of this small town, and people elsewhere, to live more joyfully and lovingly?  I think you know the answer to this question.

Special thanks to Trish from TLC for sending me the first edition of this novel.  For more reviews of the book, please visit the other stops on TLC's blog tour for The First Phone Call from Heaven.

Thanks for reading!  Your comments are welcomed.


  1. Sue, I am so sorry for your lose. Mothers are special and will always live in our hearts.

    1. I have letters my sister wrote to me while she was living, when I miss her i get them out and read them. I can hear her voice in them they always make me smile.

  2. Suko, it's wonderful you have her voice recording. I have to rely on my memory, which is still good, of her, so far. I have Albom's book and must read it soonest.

    Book Dilettante

    1. Thanks, Harvee. I think you'll relish this novel by Mitch Albom.

  3. Suko, I'm sorry for the loss of your mother. While reading your review, I couldn't help but hear/feel my father's voice as he passed away five years ago. I've enjoyed Mitch Albom's work and look forward to reading his new book.

  4. What I wouldn't do to have a recording of my dad! This sounds like a very emotional book.

  5. I'm so sorry for your loss, Suko.

    This sounds like an emotional read for sure. I read Albom's The Five People You Meet in Heaven and thought it was wonderful.

  6. The story of your mother's voice in the phone recording brought a tear to my eye. It is really good that you had the foresight to keep this.

  7. Susan, your review made me tear up - so touching. I do plan to read this one, it sounds wonderful.

    When my brother passed away of cancer in 2009, my SIL was devastated, and found comfort in my brother's voice on the answering machine. She was so upset when the answering machine broke and with it went his message:(

  8. As The Five People You Meet In Heaven is one of my all time favourites I'm so looking forward to receiving a copy of this. Thank you for sharing your thoughts on this.

  9. Thanks very much for the supportive comments.

  10. Hello Suko! I'm here from Ann's Reading Corner. Her Tuesday Teaser was from my memoir and you were kind enough to leave a comment! I didn't realize Mitch Albom had a new book out! My favorite of his is For One More Day. I've probably read it three times, and I hardly ever re-read a book! Thanks for this....I will definitely run out and buy it! Or as my husband would say, "Why don't you drive? It'd be faster and easier!" LOL

  11. This made me tear up too, but I'm glad you have the recording and take comfort in it. I haven't read this book yet, I thought it might be a little too sad for the holidays, but maybe next year.

  12. Suko, what a heartfelt review. Reading it made me tear up. I'm sorry for your loss and I'm glad you have the sound of your moms voice on the recording. Like you say, hearing someones voice can have a powerful effect.

    I'm sure I'd be crying if I read this book. What a nice idea, phone calls from heaven from loved ones. I'll have to check this author out.

  13. What a treasure to have that message from your mom! I can see why this book impacted you so strongly.

    Thanks for being a part of the tour.

  14. This sounds like such a great read thanks to your review Suko! Wow...I definitely want to get my hands on this one now after reading such an amazing review :)

  15. So sorry about your mom. The 14th was the 14th anniversary of my dad's death, and I was thinking that I almost can't remember his voice. I've been curious about this book, having loved The Five People You Meet in Heaven. Great review!

  16. What a wonderful review. It's so touching that you keep a message from your Mom. What a wonderful way to still hear her voice and remember her.

    I've read a few of Mitch Albom's books in the past and have enjoyed them. I just put a hold on this one at our library.

    One point that really interests me is that I grew up 20 minutes from Coldwater Michigan in the small town of Union City. Coldwater was one of the larger towns located by us and our county seat. The Coldwater library was one that I loved as a youth. I really want to see how the town plays out in the novel.

  17. Laura, thank you for your comment. Your connection to Coldwater is wonderful. I think you'd enjoy this book.

  18. ((Hugs)) Suko! I can't imagine a life without Mom and I know i would want to keep a connection to her for as long as I live (selfish I know but....), she is my safe place, my haven - and I cannot imagine how difficult it is for you... especially to write this. Your review makes me want to read this book right away! Wonderful :) Adding this to my wishlist and it is been a while since I have added to my list :) Thanks for the great review.

  19. Thank you for your review Suko! What a wonderful idea, hearing from departed loved ones. I wish I had a voice mail from my departed Dad :)

  20. I also have a voice message from my mom, A treasured gift.
    My Mom passed away unexpectely this summer,
    I would love to read all the books you mentioned


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