The novel opens at Ruby Pier on Eddie's 83rd birthday. He goes about his normal routine until one of the rides breaks. Eddie gives a fellow worker, Dominquez, instructions on how to fix the ride; however, one of the carts breaks free from the ride and falls to the pier. Eddie jumps out of the way and tries to push a little girl out of the path of the falling cart. Eddie does not get out of the way in time and is killed by the falling cart.
Eddie travels to heaven and meets his first person, the Blue Man. The Blue Man informs Eddie that he is going to meet five people in heaven whose lives he has somehow affected. The Blue Man tells Eddie how he is indirectly responsible for his death: When Eddie was a child, he and Joe were playing with a ball that bounced into the street. Eddie ran into the street to get the ball as the Blue Man was driving by. The Blue Man swerved out of the way, terrified that he would hit Eddie. Eddie ran safely back out of the street but the Blue Man was still extremely anxious having almost hit him. His anxiety caused him to drive recklessly and hit another car, which killed him. The Blue Man teaches Eddie his first lesson, which is that events are not random and lives intersect for a certain reason.
After this lesson, Eddie finds himself back on a war ground, which resembled that on which he fought during WWII. There, he meets his second person in heaven, his former war Captain. During WWII Eddie fought in the Philippines and he, the captain and a few other soldiers were taken as prisoners of war. Through a juggling act, Eddie is able to distract the captors so he and the other prisoners can kill them and escape. When they leave the camp, they decide to burn it down for revenge. Eddie swears he sees a small shadow crawling in the flames and runs in after it. The other soldiers tried to get Eddie out of the fire; however, he was so insistent that he saw a child in the fire that he kept trying to get in the hut. The Captain did not want Eddie to die, or to leave him behind, so he shot him in the leg so the others could get him out of the fire. This is how Eddie got the injury that made him very depressed for the rest of his life.
The Captain teaches Eddie the second lesson of sacrifice. Eddie finds out that the Captain died trying to make sure the path was clear for the rest of his men to cross. He says that he sacrificed Eddie's leg to get him out of the fire alive, and also that he sacrificed his own life to save the lives of Eddie and the soldiers.
Eddie then finds himself in a mountain range. He finds a single diner at the bottom of the mountains and through the window he can see his father sitting at a table. He meets Ruby who tells him that it is her for who the pier is named. She shows Eddie a horrifying scene where Mickey Shea almost hurt his mother; Eddie's father saw what happened and chased Mickey Shea to, possibly, kill him. Mickey falls off the pier into the sea and Eddie's father saves his life. This is the night where Eddie's father caught pneumonia which later killed him. Ruby allows Eddie to see that his father was being loyal to one of his best friends. Ruby teaches Eddie to let go of the anger he has for his father. Eddie does this by visiting him in the diner and telling him "It's fixed" (144).
Eddie blinks and finds himself in a room whose doors lead to different wedding receptions. Eddie walks through the different receptions and meets his fourth person, Marguerite. She and Eddie talk for a long while, as this is the first time they have been reunited since her death. For his fourth lesson, Marguerite teaches Eddie about the power of love; she states that even though people pass away, their love does not die. Marguerite tells Eddie that she loved him even after her death and that true love endures forever.
The final person Eddie meets in heaven is a young Asian girl, named Tala. Tala explains to Eddie that he killed her in a fire; Eddie realizes that he had seen a child in the burning hut in the Philippians during the War. Tala's skin suddenly becomes marked with burns and scars. Eddie washes her free of all her burns and injuries from the fire. For his last lesson, Tala allows Eddie to see that his place in life was to be at Ruby Pier keeping the children safe.