Tag Archives: death

‘Five People You Meet In Heaven’ Sequel On the Way

books-mitch-albom-976d33d9510ba5c0Acclaimed bestseller and heavenly writer Mitch Albom is set to release his first sequel this October, a follow-up to his bestselling novel The Five People You Meet in Heaven.

According to Entertainment Weekly, Albom’s new book The Next Person You Meet in Heaven will tell the story of Annie, the little girl who Eddie saved in Five People. The story will follow her life until she dies, goes to heaven and finds that Eddie is one of her five people.

Five People was released in 2003, but Albom says since then readers have constantly asked him what happens next for the two characters, Eddie and Annie. He finally decided it was time to explore that.

While Albom is also well known for his other books including Tuesdays with Morrie, The Five People You Meet in Heaven has gone on to be one of his most successful and memorable.

The Next Person You Meet in Heaven is due to be released in October.


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Review: When Breath Becomes Air

41ozmb3iwvl-_sx348_bo1204203200_Recap: Paul Kalanithi is on the up-and-up. He is an aspiring neuroscientist with big dreams of performing difficult surgeries, saving lives and eventually writing a book in his later years. With degrees in medicine and literature, he has his whole life mapped out. But his marriage is failing. And with his graduation from residency within his grasp, he begins to experience fatigue and horrific back pain. As a doctor, he knows this can only mean one thing: cancer.

After lots of tests, doctors and people in disbelief, it turns out he is right. Kalanithi has a rare form of cancer, at the age of 36. He goes into treatment. He strengthens his relationship with his wife. He fights it. He gets better. And then he gets worse. He knows the end is near. And suddenly he must fast forward his life plans. But by how much? How much time does he have left? He ultimately learns there’s no way of knowing, and he has no choice but to accept that. But as his life comes to an end, he writes this beautiful, touching memoir. Kalanithi now lives on forever in his words and leaves the most important lessons he’s learned for all of us.

Analysis: I purchased this book in the final days of my father’s life. At the time, I was desperate to understand — medically — what was happening to him. He had Alzheimer’s and was unconscious, so I knew he had  little, if any, logical brain activity. But his breaths were fewer and fewer each minute, and his skin had begun the mottling process. I was suddenly hearing terms I’d never heard before and wanted to know everything about them. Ultimately, the hospice nurses encouraged my mother and I to leave my father’s side and not come back. I wondered if she was trying to imply that maybe he was holding on simply because we were in the room with him. Or maybe she just didn’t want us to see all the other horrible — and gross bodily things — that happen when a person dies. So we left, and my husband and I visited what has always been one of my favorite places in my hometown:  Barnes and Noble. I purchased this book along with a self-help book. I was seeking answers that day.

My dad died two days after that. And yet, I didn’t begin reading When Breath Becomes Air until five months later. Mostly I was busy and wasn’t reading very much at all. But when I went away on a short vacation five months later, I knew this was a book I could knock out in just a few days. (I am not a fast reader.) Retrospectively, I wonder if I waited to read it because I subconsciously knew I needed time to digest my father’s death before reading about Paul Kalanithi’s death. Or maybe I was jealous of the way Paul passed away — not jealous of his age or his condition but of his ability to process his oncoming death in a way that my father mentally could not.

Either way, this book helped me process not just my father’s death, but death in general, which was something I desperately needed. After reading this book, I have accepted that ultimately we all face death and never know when it will hit us. In the way mortality often does, this memoir reaffirms the necessity  of living life to the fullest and cherishing each day. But it also tells us that it is okay if certain dreams aren’t achieved in our lifetime. It’s not what we do that’s important, but who we do it with and how we lived — in more general terms. Though he spends most of his life seeking the meaning of life and death, Paul Kalanithi doesn’t find his answer until his end. But he does the most heavenly, generous thing of all: he gives us all a glimpse into what he learned, in the hopes that we will all live more fully. So I will do that — for Paul and for my dad.

Get When Breath Becomes Air in hardcover for $17.50.

Or on your Kindle for $12.99.

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RIP Alan Rickman, the Man Who Brought Severus Snape to Life

severus-snape-in-alan-rickman-s-own-words-is-one-of-the-most-heart-felt-tributes-you-will-429332Just four days after the birthday of the character he became famous for playing, British actor Alan Rickman has died of cancer at the age of 69.

Rickman is known for his roles in many movies, including Die Hard, Robin Hood, and Love Actually, but for most millennials, he’s probably best known for playing Severus Snape in the Harry Potter movies, which is why for many other 20-somethings and myself, hearing the news of his death this morning came as a complete — and painful — shock.

Rickman’s portrayal of Snape was much more than just a role acted out on screen. It was the personification of a character that is so meaningful to children and literature. Snape was the first character I loved to hate. He teaches children the complexity of adulthood and shows how childhood affects who you become as an adult. Snape represents the idea that people aren’t always who they seem and that there is inherent good and evil in all of us. Rickman excelled at bringing this complexity to the screen and emotion to our hearts.

The entire Harry Potter series is nostalgic for many of us, who have either read the books, seen the movies or both. The death of an actor who is so representative of a beloved character makes it feel like part of my childhood ended today. But there is also some tragic beauty that comes with the thought that Rickman has possibly met Snape in his death.

Harry Potter author J.K. Rowling tweeted about Rickman’s death today, but several years ago when the Potter films were completed, Rickman wrote a letter for Empire Magazine, in which he wrote this about Rowling: “It is an ancient need to be told stories. But the story needs a great storyteller.” The same could be said for Rickman — another storyteller in his own right. Thank you, Alan Rickman. And Severus Snape. Always.

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Review: The Long Hello and Looking Into Your Voice

Recap: It’s a growing disease and it’s one of the most devastating, not only for victims, but for their families as well: Alzheimer’s Disease. In two books, Cathie Borrie details her experience with the disease, from which her mother was suffering. Borrie recorded many of the conversations she had with her mother, most of which don’t make sense and confuse her mother. But many of them also reveal an underlying layer of wisdom that her mother maintains, despite her memory loss. They also depict Borrie’s commendable patience, frustration, and love for her mother.

Looking Into Your Voice is a transcription of these conversations in poetic form. But The Long Hello incorporates the conversations into an overall story, complete with flashbacks and memories from Cathie’s childhood — allowing the reader to understand what her mother was like before the Alzheimer’s took over.

Analysis: The beauty of these books is again, not just an inside look at Cathie’s mother, the Alzheimer’s patient. But it also shows us how the disease affects Cathie, the caretaker. She gives up her life to care for her mother; there is no man, no job, just a commitment that she’ll be with her mother everyday to make sure she makes it through. Not all caretakers are so generous or willing to make that kind of a commitment, but her conversations show how mentally debilitating the disease can be and often, how necessary it is to have someone with an Alzheimer’s patient at all times. Caring for a person with Alzeheimer’s can take a lot of our of a person, both physically and emotionally.

And as angry and frustrated as Cathie gets — especially when she has to remind her mother that no one is going to take her house away from her — she’s always there. I admire her patience with her mother and those repeated, confusing conversations.

I really enjoyed the way Borrie organized her mother’s quotes and conversations in Looking Into Your Voice. It shows that her mother may not be the same person anymore, but she’s still a mother. She’s still able to give advice — in a nonsensical, yet nurturing way. She’s still able to love her daughter — when she recognizes her. She’s inherently a mother, and that never goes away.

MVP: Cathie. Her selflessness is admirable. Her attitude is mostly positive. And when it’s not, we, as readers, can understand why. As someone who has Alzheimer’s in my family, I know how hard it can be to deal with, and I am envious of Cathie’s patience and tender loving care.

Get The Long Hello for $14.99, or on your Kindle for just $8.15.

Get Looking Into Your Voice for $9.99.

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Amy Winehouse’s Father to Pen Daughter’s Biography

Whenever a celebrity dies, the quickly-published biography is inevitable. But in the case of Amy Winehouse, it’s the author that makes her biography unusual. Her father, Mitch Winehouse, signed a deal with HarperCollins to write Amy, My Daughter, which is set to be released next summer.

This is an all-around bad idea for a few reasons:

1. The deal paints Mitch Winehouse in a bad light. The fact that a father is financially benefiting from his daughter’s death makes me nauseous.

2. In order to properly write a biography, the author must do extensive research on the subject. Mitch Winehouse obviously knew his daughter, Amy. But that’s not to say he knew her well. Though her drug abuse was apparent, he would have to speak with her friends, ex-boyfriends and colleagues to learn the extent of it, and that’s not going to make his grieving period go any smoother.

3. If he doesn’t do the appropriate research and instead writes her biography how he saw it, it will be emotional and loving, but has the potential to show bias and make excuses for her behavior.

It’s for these reasons that Carolyn Kellogg, who wrote this article for the L.A. Times, suggests Winehouse’s good friend and former addict Russell Brand write the biography instead.

But of the many forms that mourning can take, a memoir of a lost daughter seems ill-advised at best. What kind of perspective can Amy Winehouse’s father have? How can he be expected to deal with her difficulties, her proclivities? In a 2007 interview with the Guardian, not long after her album “Back to Black” came out, Winehouse said she wanted her superpower to be “supersexuality”; her one-word answer to “How do you relax?” was “sex”; and her most unappealing habit was “being an abusive drunk.” A straightforward biography would be hard enough — but one from her father?

Instead, I’d like to nominate Russell Brand to write it. His memoirial to Amy Winehouse, which appeared in the Guardian sparkled with intelligence, insight and empathy.

Unfortunately, it seems the rights have already been signed over to Mitch Winehouse, and there’s not much that can be done at this point. We all know Amy, My Daughter is bound to be a bestseller anyway. But that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s the best decision.

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