Fourteen-year-old Suzie Salmon is murdered by a neighbour on her way home from middle school. From heaven, Suzie watches as her family first copes with her disappearance and then comes to realize she has been killed. As time passes, her parents, brother and sister cope with her loss in very different ways. Her sister forms a tough shell to keep sympathizers at bay. Her father attempts vigilante justice and ends up feeling he has failed his family. Her mother runs away from her children and her painful memories. Her baby brother tries to understand why his family has fallen apart. Suzie tells the story of her family in a strangely dispassionate voice. In her perpetually childish state she simply cannot comprehend the emotions and challenges which face those left on earth.
What the Armchair Critics Thought:
We liked Sebold’s description of heaven, in which every resident has a different experience. (For instance, Suzie fulfills her ambition to attend high school, but only has to read Vogue magazine, not textbooks.) The descriptions of the family’s grief and bewilderment were heart wrenching. Some of us were disappointed that the novel did not move toward a conventional conclusion with the killer brought to justice. On the whole, an interesting, if emotionally draining read.