Mitch Albom Hopes Latest Novel Is 'Heaven'-Sent

Manila Bulletin, November 13, 2013 | Go to article overview

Mitch Albom Hopes Latest Novel Is 'Heaven'-Sent


[caption id="attachment_43940" align="alignright" width="300"] Mitch Albom (AP)[/caption] HIGHLAND PARK, Michigan (AP) Mitch Albom's best-selling memoir, "Tuesdays with Morrie," gave him the literary chops to try his hand at fiction, so it's fitting that he returns to the book's central theme the struggle to understand one's own mortality for his fourth novel. "The First Phone Call From Heaven," which came out Tuesday, mines the same death-and-afterlife material that transformed Albom 16 years ago from an award-winning sports columnist into a best-selling author. A closer look, though, shows it isn't quite like his other novels. At 323 pages, it's about 100 pages longer than his other fictional works, and he devotes the extra space to fuller character development. Plus, "it's a bit of a thriller," according to Albom, who said some people close to him expressed surprise he had a mystery novel in him, but he realized: "I've been writing sports my whole life, and sports is exactly that." The book follows several residents of a fictional northern Michigan town, Coldwater, who start receiving regular Friday phone calls from deceased loved ones. (There is a real Coldwater, Mich., but it's in the south of the state.) Soon, the town is overrun by out-of-towners dead-set on getting the story (media), celebrating the phenomenon (religious zealots) or disproving it (skeptics). "There's a fundamental question: Did this really happen or not? At the core of that question is belief," Albom said. "The book to me, if you had to pick a one-word theme, it's 'belief.'" Albom said belief is "what gets us through life" and "carries us through terrible situations when they happen to us." Much like the one that happened to him. A series of strokes robbed his mother of the ability to speak. "I've not heard her voice since 2010, basically. I miss her voice something terribly," Albom said. Morrie Schwartz's voice also is one of those Albom has lost over the years. The 1997 chronicle of his mentor's deathbed seminars provided Albom with the springboard he has used to delve into the world of fiction. Albom said Schwartz asked him to visit his grave periodically to continue their conversations. …

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