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Author Topic: Plot Picking of "The First Phone Call from Heaven" by Mitch Albom  (Read 1484 times)

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June 14, 2014, 12:19:41 PM


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Some time ago I finished reading my second Mitch Albom story The First Phone Call from Heaven. Upon finishing it, I wrote the usual descriptions of my feelings here in What Are You Reading?. As there are interesting parts in it, I wouldn't go as far as to call it Literary Litter, but I sure didn't like it. However, I think there are a few people here who have read it (apart from me) and I am enough annoyed to want to have a go at some of the plot details. If you've read it you are all more than welcome to jump in and discuss, whether you agree with me or not. Perhaps you can make me see some beauty in it that I miss?

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My major problem with this book comes from the plot as a whole, as far as making the plot believable. Usually, in books, the more you learn about the true events, the better the plot sit together - in this case I had the opposite feeling. Both big things and details feel like they don't fit.

OK, so... we have a small town out in the sticks in Michigan, from which more and more people move out. Then all of a sudden a new person Horace, moves to the town, buys a funeral service which he runs with a local, very sociable, including, warm, outgoing and open person Maria. Through his funeral services he gets to know all of the town in two years, so much so that no one mentions the curious fact that he has moved there recently(!), no one knows where in the area he lives(!!), not even Maria(!!!) or that  it's curious he bought a funeral service?  :what:

Granted, I don't live in America at all, nor in a part of the country where people move out in droves, but this just doesn't ring true to me (pun unintended). Surely someone should have mentioned something about him being new? The paper owner, for instance, when he first asked Sully to sell to him. How come he didn't mention that Horace had moved in recently?

Further, how come Sully didn't know that he'd never heard of this man before if he'd grown up in this town? It seems like a small place, surely he should have known that this Horace was new? I mean, sure, he didn't live there as an adult, but he seems to have had a regular contact with his parents during his adult life as well, so surely it shouldn't have been a big surprise that Horace moved there recently?

OK, so we have a secret agent, who have some astounding technical knowledge, and from one day to the next he can fit beautifully into his new role as manager for a funeral service?
I guess it is possible, as secret agents likely are trained to fit in in very diverse places, but it still feels a wee bit weird.  :mcgonagall2:

Of the people who receive phone calls from heaven, all but one receive messages from lost and loved ones. The remaining person Elias receives phone call from a very mad and aggrieved employee who lost his job on reasonable and just grounds. Unsurprisingly, he is the one who wants this to stop and throws his phone in the lake! Before going to the extreme of throwing his phone away he have several times asked the caller to stop calling, to no effect. As soon as he gets a new phone, the phone calls comes back to him. So far, this is reasonable in terms of the story.

At the end we learn of a journalist Elwood, who also received one call from his deceased daughter. He told the caller to stop calling him or he'd call the police. This stopped his phone calls at once and he never received any more, not even at the live broadcast. So far, this is also reasonable in terms of the story, as it confirms the fact that it is a hoax.

HOWEVER, at the first town meeting when it becomes clear that others are receiving these phone calls too, how come Elwood doesn't get suspicious due to the fact that his stopped when he mentioned the police?

Why would that stop a message from God? The only reasonable thing is that it would stop a hoaxer. So why didn't he go to the police then? Or mentioned this fact at the meeting? If he and Sully had connected earlier, they would have propelled each other to investigate further.

Going back in time, to the fatal events in the control tower of the airport where Sully wants to land, a few years previously

What have we? We have an air traffic control tower in which a single person Elliot is on duty? How likely is that? And not just for a couple of minutes while two shifts are switched but long enough for Elliot to make a serious mistake, for Horace to get there undetected to deliver a letter, for Elliot to panic and flee the premises, for Horace to erase the records and leave undetected?
Come again? Was this a story that was supposed to happen in the real world as we know it or in some Utopia or Futuristic place or Out in Space or....  :shake: In my eyes this is one of the most ridiculous claims of this book - and that is saying something!  >:( I don't care how quickly this is supposed to have happened, but you have quite a good view from the control tower. For Horace to be able to do all that undetected we are definitely speaking of at the very least 30 min. This, of course, includes a fair few minutes after the planes crash which must have been heard and seen over a large area! And we are meant to believe that no one should have investigated this strangely vacated tower, just because one pilot was found to have been drinking before take-off? Yeah, right!   :thumbdown:  :madeyecv:

While it is a detail in the story, it is also the hub on which the entire plot hangs, and this is even more unimaginable than the phone calls themselves! Good job, Albom - or NOT! IMO this utterly destroys the story.  :annoyed:

Further.... Who was Elliot? We are told the following, though granted from his father's words:

Quote from: Horace in the letter, page 301
But his [Elliot's] work, like mine, was impeccable.... But I'm afraid my son panicked. I found him alone in the control's tower booth yelling "What did I do? What did I do?"... he fled the facility. ... A few days later, at Elliot's funeral, I witnessed friends I didn't know he had. They spoke lovingly of his belief in a better world after this one. They said he trusted in the grace of heaven.

I admit that people can act most irrational when panicking, but does this sound like a believable cause of events for an air controller who is impeccable in his job? Aren't they, too, trained for extreme circumstances? However much at fault he was for the crash, how is it possible that he would make matters even worse by fleeing the field? How would that help?

And also, Sullly's background is just TOO much.
That his wife could have had an accident by her car as a result of her seeing his plane crash, I can understand. Likewise that he lost her that way. OK, fine, that Elliot fled or died or whatever, but did he have to die instantly as he crashed into the wife's car?  :scared: A bit too much to be believable, again. :(

Finally, Giselle's phone call and the timing thereof.
It has to be the most riddiculous plot detail ever. Didn't we just prove that Horace could send long lines of conversations over the phones? Ever heard of a timer that sends a message at a set time or after a certain time? Why would it matter if Horace died two minutes before that call?  :headbang: Sully, with his knowledge, and investigation background could just not even begin to reflect on the possibility of "his" phone call being real as opposed to all the others, IMO.

So all in all, a plot that could have been fun to see unfold, but that was ruined by too many plotholes, I think!  >:(

What do you think? 
« Last Edit: June 14, 2014, 12:26:51 PM by Evreka »