I Never Saw Paris Review
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Irving Caldman goes out one day to buy blue shirts and ends up on a New York street corner with three other people when an old man, asleep at the wheel, jumps the curb and runs over all of them. The next thing Irving knows, he’s floating through the air headed for what he presumes to be Heaven.

The group he’s traveling with is made up of a businessman, a candy store owner, a personal shopper, a housekeeper, and an interior decorator—each with different backgrounds, religions, and lives. But this group is brought together for a reason.

First, they meet an angel named Malakh, who coaches them for their turn to stand before God in judgment. As parts of their life are exposed, the group becomes agitated as they’re forced to evaluate their lives and take a good look at what they did with their time on earth. They have one shot to justify their life when they stand before God, and nothing is kept secret—not even from each other.

While reading I Never Saw Paris, all I could think was What a bunch of whiners! If there was a point to this novel, I certainly didn’t get it. None of the characters are willing to take responsibility for their actions, and instead they blame others or blame God. To me, “God made me this way” ranks right up there with “The Devil made me do it.” And, worse, none of them want to see how their actions might have hurt others. Self-righteous and full of their own virtue, these characters are extremely hard to like.

At times while I was reading, I was surprised by a touch of humor, and sometimes I found myself laughing at unexpected moments. I Never Saw Paris reminded me a little of the movie Defending Your Life—which was written and directed by Albert Brooks and starred Meryl Streep—but only in the fact that the characters have to defend their lives. And Brooks’s version was much better.

If you want a good read about the afterlife, I’d pass up I Never Saw Paris and reach for The Five People You Meet in Heaven by Mitch Albom instead. It’s more interesting and touching, and it makes a lot more sense.

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