Holy freakin’ cow. This is one powerful book that grabs you by the throat and doesn’t let go.
Plot Summary: In 1973, a 14-year-old girl named Susie Salmon is raped, murdered, and dismembered by a neighbor. Over the next few years she watches from a personalized heaven as her family and friends deal with their grief.
As with all my book discussions, there are SPOILERS below.
I tend to walk the line between optimism and reality, hope and acceptance. In life, I lean more toward reality and acceptance. It just makes things easier for me. But in fiction, I definitely lean toward optimism and hope. Because of this, I can’t decide whether or not I loved this book.
On the one hand, this story is so full of real life and real characters that I was completely lost in it. On the other, that reality was so harsh that it squashed any hope I had of a righteous and happy ending .
Hopeful Me wanted the cavalry to haul in Mr. Harvey. She wanted Susie’s family to be able to spit in his face. She wanted him humiliated for all the world to see. She wanted him put safely behind bars so no one else would become his victim. But that didn’t happen. Instead, he fell into a hole, and wouldn’t be discovered for months. Hopeful Me was outraged.
But Reality Me accepted this as how this often happen in real life. Especially during that time period. It’s completely unfair and infuriating, but that’s just how it goes sometimes. And the author captured this amazingly well.
Susie’s family is another reality that was harsh, yet there was still hope there. Losing a close family member can understandably destroy the family. At the very least, it destroys the current way of life. Rebuilding that is both difficult and painful, because you are constantly reminded of what’s been taken from you. But, as Susie observes, her family finds a way through. Hopeful Me was elated.
The only real stumbling block I had was with the shifts in focus from person to person. Susie is in heaven and can watch the Earth from her spot in the clouds, and she can see into the minds and hearts of everyone. So we have a first person narration with something like an omniscient POV. It was interesting, but the transitions from person to person could be confusing. Susie would sometimes shift so quickly and so often that I didn’t know who we were reading about. Once the focus settled, then I understood. But it sometimes took a while.
That, combined with the raging war between Hopeful Me and Reality Me, left me feeling exhausted once I finished this book. I definitely enjoyed it, but I don’t think I have the strength to read it again.