7 reviews

The First Phone Call from Heaven: A Novel
by Mitch Albom

Published: 2013-11-12
Hardcover : 336 pages
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Recommended to book clubs by 7 of 7 members

The First Phone Call from Heaven tells the story of a small town on Lake Michigan that gets worldwide attention when its citizens start receiving phone calls from the afterlife. Is it the greatest miracle ever or a massive hoax? Sully Harding, a grief-stricken single father, is determined ...

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The First Phone Call from Heaven tells the story of a small town on Lake Michigan that gets worldwide attention when its citizens start receiving phone calls from the afterlife. Is it the greatest miracle ever or a massive hoax? Sully Harding, a grief-stricken single father, is determined to find out. An allegory about the power of belief—and a page-turner that will touch your soul—Albom's masterful storytelling has never been so moving and unexpected.

Readers of The Five People You Meet in Heaven will recognize the warmth and emotion so redolent of Albom's writing, and those who haven't yet enjoyed the power of his storytelling, will thrill at the discovery of one of the best-loved writers of our time.

Editorial Review

Author One-on-One: Nicholas Sparks and Mitch Albom

Nicholas SparksMitch Albom

Nicholas Sparks is the best-selling author of several beloved novels, with over 80 million copies in print worldwide. His most recent release is The Longest Ride.

Nicholas Sparks: We first met years ago, when Tuesdays with Morrie and The Notebook were just out. Whatâ??s been the most surprising turn for your career since that day?

Mitch Albom: Pretty much everything. Tuesdays was the first nonsports thing I had done, and it was written only to pay Morrieâ??s medical bills. I figured Iâ??d return to sportswriting. I never imagined novels or the audience Iâ??ve been blessed to find. I remember you hoping The Notebook would give you more chances to write. I think youâ??ve done OK with that, by the way.

NS: Thanks. With this new novel, The First Phone Call from Heaven, heaven once again figures prominentlyâ??as it did in The Five People You Meet in Heaven. How do you use it differently this time?

MA: Five People mostly takes place in heaven, to teach Eddie, the protagonist, to appreciate his life on earth. First Phone Call takes place in a small town, with the idea of heaven reaching out to us down hereâ??through the phone.

NS: You wove the story of Alexander Graham Bellâ??s invention of the telephone into this novel. Do you see parallels between that and our modern-day obsession with cell phones? How did this influence your story development?

MA: People scoffed at the telephoneâ??s invention. Yet once it was introduced, its growth was astronomical. Same thing with cell phones. I used this to show how the â??once impossibleâ?? is quickly forgotten. Could the same be true about speaking to heaven?

NS: Hearing from a deceased loved one is such a powerful idea. Whom would you talk to if you had the chance? And if Morrie from Tuesdays with Morrie were one, what would you ask him?

MA: My mother is still alive, but has suffered several strokes and canâ??t speak. I wish I could dial to the past and engage in one of our long, impassioned, all-over-the-place talks. And Morrie? Well. He never got to read a page of Tuesdays. Iâ??d ask if he is pleased. Am I doing OK by him? Mostly, Iâ??d like to hear his laughter. I think we miss laughter most.

NS: This is the first novel youâ??ve written with a mystery/thriller element. Did that change your writing process at all? And is this how you think the world would really reactâ??global fascinationâ??if proof of heaven were somehow revealed?

MA: It felt quite natural to weave a mysteryâ??perhaps from all those yearsâ?? writing sports that count down and reach a climax. And yes, I definitely think if a town today claimed to be talking to heaven, it would be on twenty-four hours a day on cable news and the Internet. Look at the Susan Boyle story. In a week, the whole world knew of herâ??and she just sang like an angel. Imagine talking to one!

NS: Small townsâ??like Coldwater in First Phone Callâ??often paint the backdrop of your novels. Why?

MA: I was raised in a small townâ??local high school, one great pizza place, everyone knowing everyone. So itâ??s familiar. Also, secrets in a small town are hard to keepâ??and often shocking when revealed. My stories are about peopleâ??and sometimes secrets. A small town is a good canvas.

NS: Now that you have so many more books than just Morrieâ??unlike when we first metâ??do you have a favorite among them?

MA: Tuesdays will always be my favored childâ??because it so changed my life. But storywise, Five People means a great deal, because everyone told me I was crazyâ??donâ??t write a novel. I broke every piece of advice. And people embraced the story. Thatâ??s extremely rewarding.


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Discussion Questions

Suggested by Members

Whether you believe there is an afterlife?
The different grieving process most of us survive through.
The invention of the telephone.
by smokey1 (see profile) 06/24/16

If you got a phone call like that would you believe it? How would you react--would you want to tell everyone or keep it to yourself?
by debvan (see profile) 11/18/15

Notes From the Author to the Bookclub

No notes at this time.

Book Club Recommendations

Member Reviews

Overall rating:
by Lori S. (see profile) 11/08/21

by Katie C. (see profile) 10/09/17

  "The First Phone Call from Heaven"by Denise K. (see profile) 06/24/16

Very thought-provoking book and made you think about the afterlife, God, spirituality, and grieving. When you realize it is also a mystery then you try to figure it out. The invention of the telephone... (read more)

  "First Phone Call From Heaven"by Cindy H. (see profile) 06/22/16

A good mystery with interesting characters. Good historical tie-in with Alexander Graham Bell. Easy read.

  "The First Phone Call from Heaven"by Debbie V. (see profile) 11/18/15

It was interesting as you watched human nature and how the different characters reacted, but in the end it was optimistic--everyone's life was just a bit better. I liked it.

  "The First Phone Call From Heaven"by Fern C. (see profile) 11/18/15

We had a good discussion about afterlife and how each of us would react to a phone call from a loved one that had passed on. We also talked about the implications of the city where we live.

  "Last Phone Call From Heaven"by Mary L. (see profile) 01/28/15

Very good book. Very interesting group discussion but then, religious stories, always are.

by Dawn N. (see profile) 10/14/14

by Jo B. (see profile) 06/15/14

To my mind, nothing Mitch Albom writes will ever top Tuesdays with Morrie. Having said that, The First Phone Call From Heaven is a light, harmless read. While not Albom’s best work, it
... (read more)

  "Classic Albom"by Janice B. (see profile) 02/22/14

This is a classic Albom that is thought provoking for the reader. Enjoyable story that is at first heartbreaking.

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