For anyone who has reflexively dialed up a deceased loved one’s number, only to suddenly remember that the person is no longer reachable via a phone line, Mitch Albom’s new novel, The First Phone Call from Heaven, is certain to prove both haunting and comforting.

While snobby literary types might not approve of Albom’s populist appeal, he has nevertheless established himself as a powerful storyteller, and this latest book surpasses even the wildly popular Tuesdays with Morrie in its page-turning power. If the plot seems dubious at first—eight residents of a small town in Michigan begin receiving phone calls from the departed—readers will soon be swept up in this plainspoken tale that asks, is there life after death? Or more precisely, is there life after life?

Determined to prove that the phone calls are nothing more than a mean-spirited hoax, Sully Harding, a disgraced Navy pilot and single father, is a lovable antihero whom readers will find themselves cheering on every step of his strife-ridden way. Intertwined with this rousing, cliffhanging plot is a parallel story featuring historic anecdotes from the life of the inventor of the telephone, Alexander Graham Bell—who, Albom suggests, also wondered if technology might someday breach the abyss between the living and the dead.

Without spoiling the ending, readers should expect more than a few surprises. The First Phone Call from Heaven proves once again that Albom is adept at producing straightforward stories that are both heartwarming and compelling.

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