We read this book during October and discussed on November 1, but I haven't had time to post about it! It's not a novel exactly, more a fictionalised parable. As such I found it rather preachy and contrived. Also, the self-conscious structure of this book irritated me.
However, there were plenty of positives to compensate, although I'm still not going to rave about it. One thing I liked was the way in which we were introduced to an old man, Eddie, and shown his final day on earth. We were presented with him as he was then, old and somewhat cantankerous, yet ultimately caring. He seemed to have lived a simple live as a fun park maintenance man. We countdown to his death in painstaking degrees.
So Eddie dies (as we know full-well he's going to do) and then we begin to find out about him. As we find out about his life through key flashbacks to his past, Eddie finds out the meaning of it all through encounters with 5 different people who he meets in heaven. We discover that our assumptions about Eddie at the beginning were erroneous -- he actually has a far more complex history than first realised, filled with war, family issues, and discontent. As do most people, really.
The other key theme is how you never really know whose life you impact. Sometimes it's obvious, but sometimes a stray comment or action might have ramifications in someone else's life that you never consider. It's a really sobering thought! Similarly, the people who impact us do not always have faces. And sometimes they do, but they're people who now cease to have meaning.
(I recall an incident that led to my giving up ballet lessons in grade 6. The teacher and I had an altercation, based on a misunderstanding, and ballet ceased to be enjoyable. Had I continued, would my life have gone in a different direction? Perhaps I would have been fitter, more graceful -- certainly not a ballerina though!)
Anyway, this was certainly a thought-provoking book and engendered a lively discussion. One of the most distressing aspects was the notion that you only work it all out, that life only has meaning after you are dead.