Al­bom re­turns with ‘Heaven’ se­quel

The Commercial Appeal - - Mlife - Mike House­holder | AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

DETROIT – Mitch Al­bom’s books are about faith and sal­va­tion, for­give­ness and sec­ond chances.

What they most cer­tainly are not about, ac­cord­ing to the au­thor, is a cer­tain five-let­ter word.

“I re­ally don’t think my books are about death,” Al­bom told The As­so­ci­ated Press. “And I don’t think they’re de­press­ing. I think they’re the op­po­site.”

Many of Al­bom’s works do touch on the af­ter­life, how­ever, in­clud­ing his lat­est, “The Next Per­son You Meet in Heaven,” which came out on Tues­day and marks the novelist’s first se­quel. The new book re­vis­its the sto­ries of Ed­die the amuse­ment park main­te­nance man and An­nie, the young girl whose life he saves while los­ing his own. Ed­die and An­nie ap­peared in 2003’s “The Five Peo­ple You Meet in Heaven.”

That first foray into fic­tion fol­lowed the mega-suc­cess­ful “Tues­days With Mor­rie,” which chron­i­cled the Detroit sports colum­nist’s weekly meet­ings with his dy­ing men­tor and trans­formed Al­bom from an award-win­ning Detroit sports colum­nist into a best-sell­ing au­thor.

“I think all my books at some point you can kind of draw a line some­where with a slide rule to ‘Tues­days with Mor­rie,’ ” Al­bom said. “You know, there’s some les­son that hap­pened, and that’s OK. That was a sem­i­nal mo­ment in my life.”

An­other was his re­la­tion­ship with Chika, a Haitian girl with a ter­mi­nal brain tu­mor whom Al­bom met through the or­phan­age in Port-au-Prince that he set up fol­low­ing the earth­quake in 2010. Al­bom brought Chika to live with him and his wife in Michi­gan, and, al­though she was given five months to live, the girl Al­bom de­scribed as a “fighter” lasted nearly two years be­fore suc­cumb­ing to her ill­ness.

“The Next Per­son You Meet in Heaven” is ded­i­cated to Chika, and Al­bom ac­knowl­edges that a pas­sage in which An­nie suf­fers a tragedy in­volv­ing a small child rep­re­sents “a lit­tle bit of pro­jec­tion, I guess, on my part.”

“(Chika) per­me­ated the air around that book,” Al­bom said dur­ing an in­ter­view at the S.A.Y. Detroit Play Cen­ter, a fa­cil­ity where young peo­ple can come and learn, eat and/or play mu­sic and sports af­ter school. It’s one of Al­bom’s many char­i­ta­ble en­deav­ors in his home­town and beyond, and it’s also one of the ways he spends his time when not writ­ing best-sell­ing nov­els and columns for the Detroit Free Press. Al­bom also hosts a lo­cal ra­dio show and a na­tional sports pod­cast.

Next up is a re­turn to non-fic­tion with a look at “Chika and Haiti and the kids and how you cre­ate a fam­ily in your 50s,” said Al­bom, who is writ­ing the book now and ex­pects it to come out next year. “It’s very cathar­tic for me to be writ­ing that now.”

Now 60, Al­bom says he may need to pare down his lengthy list of ac­tiv­i­ties if he wants to com­plete the books that are “noodling around” in his mind.

Al­bom

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