Written by: Faria Islam – Grade 10
“All endings are also beginnings. We just don’t know it at the time…”
My love for this book blossomed this past October, thanks to my great friend Jennifer (also a lover of books). For those who enjoy books, where the writing is not only aesthetically pleasing, but also pretty-flippin insightful in not-the-most-obvious way, I recommend to you this novel, especially for this year’s Remembrance Day.
This story is about an old war veteran named Eddie, who deems his life as meaningless. Eddie dies on the job as a maintenance-man on his 83rd birthday at a seaside amusement park where he grew up, and instead of being consumed into a realm of absolutely “nothing”, he is awakened in the afterlife by five individuals, one by one. The five people he meets in so-called “heaven”, have died before him, and they hold the explanations to his life on Earth. A few out of the five people he meets, he’s never even known and the others are people he thought he’d never see again. Despite that, Eddie is forced to confront the stories he thought he left behind, and what comes out of it, are lessons he was destined to only learn in his grave.
Whatever our concepts of “heaven” may be, this book brings a unique and inspirational twist to it all, with not a single mention of hell.The characters are unique, funny, sweet, and wise all at the same time. Mitch Albom, an author critically acclaimed for his book “Tuesdays with Morrie” (which I hear is also an incredible book I have yet to read) based this novel on his beloved uncle’s stories of heaven. It’s also one of those books where all the loose-ends are left tied, which I found very fortunate as a reader of books.
Here’s a dull (yet significant) spoiler: one of the people he meets is his war Captain, who doesn’t have a name, he is just referred to as “Captain”. Although I am tempted to tell you more, I hear that’s against the rules on writing book reviews. I can only say this: if you find yourself getting teary-eyed, grab a Kleenex, just in case (joking, totally jokes). No I didn’t exactly cry, but what I felt while reading this passage in the book broke my heart, and then it was torn into pieces. The book was all I could think about for several days, and soon I realised what I was being reminded of.
Growing up, I’ve always heard about wars from (mostly) secondary sources, and the movies you typically watch on them give you a big jab on the heart, which leaves you in less than an hour later. Remembrance Day was just another boring assembly to attend at school once a year. However, my favourite part in the book (if I had to choose) would be Eddie’s conversation with his Captain, and them recalling the events of their service in the army. This book opened up my eyes to understand war, soldiers and sacrifice in a much finer depth, that depth I only first felt last year when my Grade 9 class went to see Jake’s Gift at the Lunchbox Theatre downtown. The play has won numerous awards, and my experience watching it is one I’ll hold on to forever.
Jake’s Gift, a solo-play written and performed by Julia Mackey (who is just, incredible, by the way) is about a World War II Canadian war veteran who is reluctant to appear at the 60th anniversary of D-Day at Juno Beach, Normandy, France. He meets a 10-year-old girl, who completely changes his perception of his past as a soldier who endured the death of his brother, once an aspiring musician. Although, the stories we’re talking about here are fictitious, these are truly the stories that impact us the most (am I right, or am I right?).
For example, in the widely acclaimed Hunger Games novels (don’t you love dystopian books that relate to just about everything so it’s bound to be brought up publicly in school at some point of the semester out of nowhere?), we find Katniss fighting for her country, and fighting for the freedom for her people, despite going through the most intense situations of war any teenager in the Western world is so unlikely to experience now. Ultimately, we see her succeed after losing the one person she truly loved to the rebellion. Fictional stories are great, especially when we can relate to them and when they tie back to reality.
The reality in this case is: each year that goes by, we lose more and more of our veterans. These veterans sacrificed everything they truly were, and truly had, for us to live with the rights and freedoms we have in Canada today. A way we show our gratitude annually is by wearing the Poppy in the month of November. This may seem like a small act of acknowledgement, you could say, but to our veterans and their families, it means everything you can ever imagine. Wearing the Poppy preserves the legacy of remembrance, and resembles stories behind one soldier’s grave. So to my fellow Pearson Patriots, I urge you to wear the Poppy, with pride and respect.
Now, quickly, back to the awesome book: if you enjoy books with larger-than-life aspects and greatly memorable characters, I recommend you this book. I give this book a rating out of 10/10 because it reminded me of what so many of us take for granted. If you enjoy the feeling of your soul being reached out to, I recommend you this book! I hope you love it.
This Remembrance Day and so forth, lest we forget.