This section contains 2,340 words
(approx. 6 pages at 400 words per page)
The First Phone Call From Heaven Summary & Study Guide Description
The First Phone Call From Heaven Summary & Study Guide includes comprehensive information and analysis to help you understand the book. This study guide contains the following sections:
The story, First Phone Call from Heaven, by Mitch Albom, chronicles a series of events that took place after a phone call was reportedly received from a dead relative by Katherine Yellin, a real estate agent in Coldwater, Michigan. However, the story opens with Tess Rafferty receiving her own phone call (and who, in fact was the real first person to receive a phone call). Not only does Tess receive a phone call, but across town, the police chief, Jack Sellers, also receives a phone call from his dead son, Robbie. Meanwhile, a few counties over Sully Harding is released from a military prison. His son and parents are there to greet him. The reader learns that his wife, Giselle, who had been in a coma, has just died.
Sully goes to get Giselle's ashes from the local funeral home. The ashes are kept in an urn shaped like a small angel. He doesn't know what he should do with them, and he can't bear to part with them, so he takes them home to put on the mantle.
Meanwhile, Jack wrestles with his own disbelief about the phone call. He looks at the photo of he and his ex-wife, Doreen, with Robbie by the lake. They are all wearing life preservers which Jack finds ironic. He decides that he will not tell Doreen that he's been receiving calls since Doreen went into a major depression when Robbie died.
Sully looks for a job but once everyone learns of his time in jail, he is turned away. He's moved into an apartment, but hasn't unpacked any of the boxes. His young son, Jules, who has been living with Sully's parents, moves back in. Jules is seven. An old friend of Sully's, Mark, gets Sully a job at the newspaper selling ads. Sully hates the job, but at least it is something.
The next day in church, Katherine Yellin stands at the end of the service and tells everyone about the phone call that she received from her sister. Elias Rowe, seeing her courageous behavior, stands and says that he, too, has received a phone call from someone known to be dead.
In a flashback, the reader learns that Sully's plane crashed because he had taken a flight job for another co-worker who couldn't do the flight. It would allow Sully, who was on deployment, an opportunity to see his wife and Jules.
Meanwhile, on the road into town there is a young reporter named Amy. She is furious because her boss, Phil, has sent her to a little backwater town to do a story on a woman who talks to the dead through her phone.
Across town, Tess's house catches fire. She's ceased to do much around her house except to wait for a phone call from her dead mother, Ruth. As a result, she hasn't mowed the lawn, cleaned her house, and when the space heaters upstairs fall over, Tess isn't up there to catch it in time. She makes it out of the house okay, but her upstairs is totally gutted.
At Frieda's Diner, Elias Rowe thinks about his confession in church. His phone calls have come from an employee of his named Nick. Elias feels guilty about that since Nick died penniless and hopeless, which Elias believes he helped to perpetuate by firing Nick.
Alexander Graham Bell's history with the phone and his deaf fiance, Mabel, are discussed. It is his desire to be able to communicate with her that spurs on his invention. He longs to be able to create a device that will enable her to hear music and his voice.
Pastor Warren does not know what to make of the 'miracles' that have happened to some of his congregants. No other church in the community has any heavenly phone calls coming in, which perplexes the 82-year-old preacher. He is worried at Katherine Yellin's overnight celebrity and what it might mean for the town.
Sully determines that he is going to get to the bottom of the phone calls before things get any further out of hand. His own son believes that his mother will call him, thanks to a teacher at Jules' school. Sully goes to talk to Elias who refuses to speak with him. Elias stops at the edge of town, throws his phone in the water, then leaves town.
People have started to make a pilgrimage into Coldwater; many of them camping out on Katherine's front lawn. Pastor Warren's secretary at the church tenders her resignation saying that the phone calls that have been streaming in are nonstop and that it wasn't what she signed on for. Pastor Warren goes across the street to speak with the mayor.
The mayor is excited with all of the publicity and thinks that it will put the town on the 'map' so to speak. He accepts partnerships with Dial Tek and several other larger corporations, who set up shop in the center of town.
Meanwhile, Tess, at her mother's suggestion, has called the Catholic priest, Father Carroll. Father Carroll has called in Bishop Hibbing to authenticate the 'miracle'. Tess wonders why she called either of the men since she's been a lapsed Catholic ever since they treated her mother poorly after her divorce.
There's a town hall meeting at the local high school where more people come forward to say that they've received phone calls. This makes six in all. Sully goes to the local library to do some investigating, where he meets the new librarian named, Liz. He wants to look up the obituaries of the people who are now, reportedly, calling home. He finds that all of them were written by Maria at the funeral home, which he finds odd. Even odder still, Sully learns that Maria tapes all of the interviews with the family members, then transcribes them and keeps them all in a large file in the office.
In a flashback the reader learns that shortly after ejecting from his plane, Sully had seen his wife rushing to the scene. He did not see her wreck, but later was told that she had hit the Tower Controller head on as they both rounded a turn at the airport.
Back in the present, Amy sits with Katherine, consoling her as she cries. Katherine's children and family don't want anything to do with her, thinking that she is making all of it up. Amy takes advantage of the situation to steer Katherine clear of the other news agencies who want to talk to Katherine.
The next day Amy and Katherine go to visit the sick in the local hospital. An older man with leukemia speaks with Amy, then the next day he dies. The media seizes on this and claims that heaven is killing people and that Katherine is the angel of death. This devastates Katherine. Over at Tess's house, because of the Bishop's declaration that Tess had been the actual first receiver of a phone call from heaven, there are now 200 people camped out on her lawn. Her best friends wade through them to bring some of the kids from the daycare to see her.
Sully goes to Dial Tek and asks Jason, the clerk there, to look up some information for him. Jason hesitates, but then complies, and finds out that all of the people getting phone calls were all on the same phone plane and had the same type of phones.
Tess and Jack grow closer as Jack continues to have to go to her house to chase people off of her front lawn. Finally, one morning when Jack comes over, he is shocked to see that she's opened her front doors and is feeding everyone toast and tea. Jack pitches in to help and both he and Tess share a romantic moment later.
Sully speaks with Maria, the funeral home secretary. She is very talkative and Sully learns that the people who have access to the files are the people in the funeral home and the newspaper people. The senior reporter, Elwood Jupes, becomes Sully's chief suspect.
In order to counter the abusive claims against her, Katherine tells the public when she is live on the air, that she plans to broadcast her sister's next call, and then everyone can hear for themselves. The town becomes a circus as believers, protesters, and the media move in.
Jack's ex-wife Doreen has also been receiving calls. Finally, she goes to tell Jack about it, and then tells him that she doesn't want to receive them any longer. She tells him that she took out all of her phones and gave them away.
In front of the Harvest Church a riot between believers and protesters is about to break out. Jack and Warren go out front to try and calm things down. Jack is hit on the back of the head and he loses consciousness.
Elias comes back into town and seeks out Sully. He tells him that originally he was just going to keep on driving, but then he thought about Sully and his little boy and turned around. The two men begin to figure out a few things, but they need to prove it. Elias agrees to help Sully.
Amy's fiance, Rick, leaves her because she won't do anything but focus on work. Back at the mayor's office, everyone gathers to discuss the next media drive. Amy, finally looking at the situation with clarity, yells at them all to stop, that commercializing all of this is wrong. She is fired.
Pastor Warren is holding Wednesday night services and collapses from a heart attack. He is taken to the hospital. At the high school football field construction begins on a stage that will hold Katherine and the other Coldwater miracles. Sully learns during a meeting at the newspaper that Horace and Jupes are best friends, often spending a lot of time together. The next day Sully waits for his opportunity and he ducks into the funeral home while everyone is at lunch and takes the transcription files from Maria's desk.
Sully goes to visit Warren at the hospital. Elias is there, too. Sully asks Warren what he thinks about all of the phone call business and Warren tells him that God gives glimpses of heaven all of the time, but not like this. Sully agrees, and finds that Elwood has begun following him. He goes to the library to look up Elwood's daughter's obituary, but finds that the entire edition has been taken. Before anything more can come of it, Jack enters, takes Sully to the station for questioning. It is there that Sully learns that Jupes has accused him of much the same thing that Sully is accusing him of...making the false phone calls.
Satisfied that Sully is not involved with the phone calls, Jack releases him. Right before the show at the high school football field, Sully learns from his father that Horace didn't own the funeral home for very long, as he purchased it from the original owner only two years prior. Sully researches it and finds that Horace came from Virginia, worked for military intelligence, and did not work on Fridays. All of this evidence is enough to send Sully to Horace's home.
When Sully reaches Horace's farmhouse he sees that there is a hidden antenna on the property. Sully gets into the building, goes down into the basement, where Horace shows him the entire setup. He tells Sully that he made the phone calls to atone for his mistakes in the past. He tells Sully that his real name is Eliot Gray, Sr., the father of the Tower Controller responsible for his plane crash. Sully is shocked at the revelation, and then watches in horror as Horace makes Katherine's phone ring on stage, in front of the world.
The call has already been made, but Sully attacks Horace any way, smashing up the room, pulling cords and wires, overturning monitors. Horace gets away through a secret trap door. Sully rushes out to the car and tries to call Elias. The phone lines are spotty due to the bad weather.
Sully hits a lot of traffic on his way home, so decides to take a back road. He receives a phone call, which he answers. It is from Giselle. Suspecting Horace is up to his old tricks, Sully yells at him to stop messing with him. He is driving too fast and in order to avoid a family walking on the road, he jerks the wheel too far to the left. This takes him over an embankment and down onto a frozen lake. He loses consciousness, and then wakes to see his wife sitting on the edge of Jules' bed. She tells him that he should not tell Jules about what happened.
Sully wakes and pushes himself free of the wreckage. He just makes it to the edge of the lake when the car breaks through the ice and disappears. Sully makes it to the top of the road where the police are already at Horace's house. They put Sully into an ambulance and tell him that Horace was found dead in a small panic room in the house.
The media have a field day with the fact that Horace had orchestrated the entire thing. Katherine, and the others feel like fools. Sully explains that the voicemail recordings and other recorded voices of their loved ones had been stored and were easily accessible to someone with Horace's military intelligence background. He'd been trying to offer some peace and consolation to those who were particularly upset by their loved ones' passing.
Sully thinks about his near death visit from his wife, and then realizes that if Horace was dead, then he could not have made the phone call pretending to be Giselle. Sully calls Jack and asks for Horaces' time of death. Horace was dead well before Giselle called him. The first, and only, phone call from heaven, had been on Sully's phone.
This section contains 2,340 words
(approx. 6 pages at 400 words per page)