The title event happens on the very first page of the novel, as a woman named Tess hears her dead mother’s voice on her answering machine. Moments later, a local police officer gets a call from his deceased soldier son. And on it goes, as all over the small town of Coldwater, MI, various people hear brief messages on their home phones and cell phones from their loved ones who’ve died. Meanwhile, Sully Harding, whose wife died recently while he was in prison, gets upset by this turn of events in his hometown. His young son keeps expecting to get a phone call from his mom, and Sully is certain this is a hoax with cruel consequences. He sets out to solve the mystery of the heaven-sent phone calls.
As the town’s residents try to decide whether to be skeptical or joyful about this strange turn of events, little Coldwater becomes a media Mecca, with radio, TV, and print media all descending on the tiny town, eager to report on the world’s first connection with heaven. The result is chaos and fame – much of it unwanted – as the town’s residents try to live their lives and decide what all this means. Throughout the novel, which is a quick page-turner, Albom also weaves in historical facts about Alexander Graham Bell and the invention of the telephone.
Spiritual matters and mysteries are a favorite topic of Albom’s, though the insights in this novel felt a bit forced to me. The ending does bring things together nicely, wrapping things up with just the right amount of ambiguity to leave people wondering. I found the writing less polished than in Albom’s previous books that I’d read. It almost felt as if he wrote it quickly and it got little editing, and minor inconsistencies in the story kind of bothered me. Overall, though, it is a unique and engaging story that kept me reading. It’s fast-paced and a fairly quick read….just not quite as clever and well-written as The Five People You Meet in Heaven.
336 pages, Harper