The Five People You Meet in Heaven is a novel by Mitch Albom that was published in 2003. It follows the life and death of a maintenance man named Eddie.
Albom grew up Jewish and, although he does not subscribe to any specific religion today, feels that there must be a balance between this life and the afterlife. Albom's previous novel, Tuesdays with Morrie, is a rumination on the meaning of life and the possibilities of what might come after. Albom structured the narrative around his interactions with a professor named Morrie Schwartz who was dying of ALS. Tuesdays with Morrie became wildly successful, selling over 14 million copies. Afterwards, Albom claims, "When it came time for me to write something after Tuesdays with Morrie, I moved slowly. I didn’t want to do any sequels. No Wednesdays with Morrie."
Albom did not need to look any further than his own family for inspiration. Similar to Tuesdays With Morrie, Five People is based on the life of a real person with whom Albom felt a deep connection. The author fashioned the character of Eddie as a tribute to his uncle, Eddie Beitchman, who died at the age of 83 believing that he had not accomplished enough in his life. Beitchman led a similar life to the novelized version of Eddie except that he drove a taxi instead of running an amusement park. Like his fictional counterpart, Beitchman fought in World War II.
Albom recalls Uncle Eddie's tale about a near-death experience during which he claimed to feel his soul floating above the bed. Uncle Eddie went on to say that in that moment, he saw many of his dead relatives waiting for him at the edge of his hospital bed. Albom has said that this image of people waiting in a sort of purgatory after death inspired him to write The Five People You Meet in Heaven. In writing Five People..., Albom wanted to explore his belief that "there is some kind of sense of accountability to a God, or to an afterlife” (Tidy).
Five People... has sold over 12 million copies in 38 territories and has been translated into 35 languages. In 2004, the novel was made into a feature-length made-for-television movie.