Eddie is the protagonist of The Five People You Meet in Heaven. Albom never specifies Eddie's last name, but everyone on Ruby Pier calls him "Eddie Maintenance" because that is what is says on his name-tag. The novel begins on the day Eddie dies. At 83, he is a widower with a limp who has been working at Ruby Pier for most of his adult life. Alone and bitter, Eddie sees his life as worthless. That day, however, he dies trying to save a child from a falling roller coaster car during a freak accident at the park. The novel follows Eddie into Heaven as he sheds all of his earthly burdens and finally learns how much his life actually meant through encounters with 5 specific individuals who died before him. Eddie becomes increasingly appreciative over the course of the novel until finally, he is able to let go of all his lingering doubts - thus earning him entry into his own personal Heaven.
Albom never gives first names to either of Eddie's parents. Eddie's mother cared deeply for Eddie and his brother, Joe, offering her sons a nurturing alternative to their abusive, alcoholic father. She attempted to broker peace between her husband and Eddie, but was never able to achieve this goal. She fell apart after Eddie's father died, blaming herself for his demise. After that, Eddie and Marguerite moved into Eddie's mother's apartment building and cared for her until her death.
Albom never reveals Eddie's father's name. Out of Eddie's immediate family, Eddie's father had the biggest impact on his son's life. He worked in maintenance at Ruby Pier and scoffed at Eddie's aspirations to transcend the family's blue-collar roots. Eddie's father was a drunk and often physically abusive towards his wife and children. At times, he revealed a glimmer of pride and loyalty, but it was rare. Eddie's father died after a drunken jaunt in the ocean, leaving a void in Eddie's mother's life that Eddie had no choice but to fill. Eventually, Eddie took on the same job his father had at Ruby Pier. As a result, Eddie harbors major resentment towards his father. Eddie is finally able to forgive his father after his third meeting in Heaven gives him a new perspective on the old man's death.
Joe is Eddie's older brother. When they were children, Joe was always physically weaker than Eddie. Ultimately, Joe's physical insufficiencies led him down path that diverges from Eddie's; the army rejected Joe because of his flat feet. War left Eddie with lifelong burdens, both physically and emotionally, while Joe went on to have a successful sales career. Joe is also able to have children and grandchildren. Eddie both loves his brother and resents him for being able to escape a life working at Ruby Pier. Joe dies ten years before Eddie does.
Marguerite is Eddie's one true love. She is also the only one of Eddie's "Five People" with whom he actually had a significant relationship. Eddie and Marguerite fell in love at Ruby Pier when they are teenagers. They remained committed when Eddie enlisted in the army, and Marguerite was loyal even after Eddie disappeared into the hands of his Filipino captors for many months. She stood by Eddie throughout his postwar recovery and was a constant positive force in his life. Eddie and Marguerite got married but never had children. Eddie's stubbornness ruined their chances at adoption - Marguerite got in a car accident while driving to reconcile with him after a fight, and the subsequent medical costs meant that they could no longer afford to adopt a child. Marguerite died at the age of 56 from a brain tumor, leaving Eddie empty and devastated. When they are reunited in Heaven, Marguerite assures Eddie that she never stopped loving him, even after she died.
The Blue Man
The Blue Man's real name is Joseph Corvelszchik. He is the first of Eddie's "Five People," but Eddie only knew him in passing. Eddie remembers the Blue Man from his childhood, back when Ruby Pier had a freak show. In Heaven, the Blue Man shares his life story with Eddie. As a child, Joseph overdosed on the silver nitrate that a pharmacist prescribed to cure his bedwetting habit, which is why his skin is permanently blue. The Blue Man explains that Ruby Pier is his version of Heaven, not Eddie's - it was the only place he felt free to be himself. Eddie learns that he caused the Blue Man's death by running in front of his car, chasing after the baseball he received as a birthday gift. The Blue Man had to brake abruptly in order to miss young Eddie and died in an accident soon thereafter because the shock distracted him so much.
Ruby is the third of Eddie's "Five People." She explains that she was married to Emile, the man who created Ruby Pier. After a fire leveled the park, Emile was ruined - both physically and financially. Coincidentally, Ruby happened to be tending to Emile on the other side of the curtain in Eddie's father's room. She alone heard Eddie's father's last words - he called out the names of his wife and his two sons. Ruby also reveals the truth about Eddie's father's death, thus teaching Eddie the importance of forgiveness.
The Captain is the second of Eddie's "Five People." He was Eddie's commanding officer during World War II and was taken prisoner in the Phillippines and along with Eddie and four other soldiers. The Captain comes from three generations of military men and had taken a vow to never leave a man behind. He confesses to Eddie that he was the one who fired the shot into Eddie's knee, thus causing the injury that plagued Eddie all his life. However, the Captain also reveals that he died shortly thereafter - he stepped on a landmine while trying to get the injured Eddie to safety. The Captain therefore teaches Eddie about the importance of sacrifice: he shot Eddie in the leg so that Eddie would not die in the burning tent. Even though the Captain ended up sacrificing his life for Eddie's, he was able to keep his promise to not leave anyone behind.
Tala is the last of Eddie's "Five People." After Eddie and the other soldiers escaped from their Filipino captors, they torched the village beneath which they were held for so long. Eddie believed that he saw a child in one of the burning tents and tried to go in after him/her, but the Captain shot him in the leg so he could not enter the tent; it would have been certain death. Until the moment that Eddie and Tala meet, neither Eddie nor the reader know if there really was a child in that tent. Tala confirms that she was that child and she died that day. Eddie breaks down but Tala comforts him; she reveals that Eddie did save "Annie or Amy" on the day of his death. She teaches Eddie about moving on from his pain. After meeting Tala, Eddie accepts the fact that his life meant a great deal to many people.
Amy or Annie
Eddie sees "Amy or Annie" on the day of his death when she asks him to make her a balloon animal. He identifies her as a regular visitor to Ruby Pier and muses that he has never seen a parent accompanying her. Later that day, Eddie sees "Amy or Annie" crying for her mother, stranded right in the path of a steel carriage falling from a malfunctioning ride. Eddie leaps forward to save her and dies in the process, but he does not know whether or not the little girl survived until Tala reveals that she did. In the epilogue, we learn that Eddie will become one of "Amy or Annie"'s "Five People" when she dies.
Dominguez is the young attendant who works under Eddie at Ruby Pier. He is full of energy and dreams about a good life with his family. Dominguez is fond of Eddie and misses him after his death.
Mickey was a close friend of Eddie’s father when Eddie was younger. When Eddie's parents were first starting out, Mickey lent them money and helped Eddie's father to land the job at Ruby Pier. However, Eddie only remembers Mickey as a drunk who could not hold down his own job. After Eddie's death, Eddie learns that Mickey once tried to rape Eddie's mother, but Eddie's father stopped him. Then, Eddie's father chased his shamed friend to Ruby Pier and watched him jump into the roiling waves. Eddie's father considered letting his friend die, but eventually, his loyalty triumphed over his anger and he saved Mickey instead. As a result, Eddie's father contracted pneumonia and died shortly thereafter. Mickey never forgave himself.
Noel was Eddie's best friend when he was a young man and they used to go to the races together. Eddie helped Noel's laundromat get a contract for cleaning the Ruby Pier uniforms. They grew apart after their horse racing habit led to Marguerite's car accident.
Mr. Nathanson was the caretaker of the apartment complex in which Eddie’s parents lived. He had a telephone and would frequently deliver messages from the hospital about Eddie’s father’s condition.
A young man who works under Dominguez at Ruby Pier.
The Five People You Meet in Heaven Questions and Answers
The Question and Answer section for The Five People You Meet in Heaven is a great
resource to ask questions, find answers, and discuss the novel.
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