*This post contains affiliate links.
Amazon synopsis: “When we first meet 14-year-old Susie Salmon, she is already in heaven. This was before milk carton photos and public service announcements, she tells us; back in 1973, when Susie mysteriously disappeared, people still believed these things didn’t happen. In the sweet, untroubled voice of a precocious teenage girl, Susie relates the awful events of her death and her own adjustment to the strange new place she finds herself. It looks a lot like her school playground, with the good kind of swing sets. With love, longing, and a growing understanding, Susie watches her family as they cope with their grief, her father embarks on a search for the killer, her sister undertakes a feat of amazing daring, her little brother builds a fort in her honor and begin the difficult process of healing. In the hands of a brilliant novelist, this story of seemingly unbearable tragedy is transformed into a suspenseful and touching story about family, memory, love, heaven, and living.“
Length and medium: 328 pages, paperback
Published by and date:
This book was another 2017 Christmas gift. Oddly enough, my boyfriend got it for me without me ever sharing my experience with reading for pleasure before high school.
The summer before high school started for me, I stumbled across the list of books. I don’t know why they were paired together and I don’t even remember where I got the list from or if it had a name. I just knew they were all Penguin books. The only book from that list I got my hands on was Looking for Alaska by John Green.
I read it and instantly loved it. I made plans to read more books from that list but never had the chance. Over the years though, I keep hearing titles from that list. Books like If I Stay, Speak, Thirteen Reasons Why, and The Lovely Bones. Like I said, I don’t know how or why I stumbled across a book list like this. I hadn’t lost anyone close to me. None of my friends were grieving losses. And yet, this has been a well cherished list of books in the back of my head for many years now.
All this to say I was pretty excited to get another book off this list, even though after all these years I’m aware that this kind of book is not my usual cheery tale. And though the movie came out a few years ago, I still managed to know nothing of the actual story other than it’s sad and someone dies.
From the two sentences, you know the narrator is dead. From there, it becomes a game of intrigue. You get the details surrounding her death pretty quickly. The story isn’t about finding the killer. The story is about how her family, friends, neighbors, people mildly touched by her presence respond to her absence.
It’s for this reason, I really liked this book. As Susie watches from heaven, she sees her siblings grow up, her parents grow apart, and her friends find solace in one another. It was heart-warming for me and depressing at the same time. Here everyone is trying to move on from this tragedy and Susie is watching on, trying to live life through them. A child killed before she had a chance to live and now she searches for life in anyone that was close to her. It’s beautifully bone-chilling.
I didn’t really like this rendition of heaven though. Susie spent a lot of her time watching her family. I grew up Christian and it’s a common belief that there’s a party waiting for you in heaven. That you get your own mansion and it’s all happy good times. I can’t see myself being completely engrossed in the lives of the loved ones. I could, however, totally see myself sloppily covered in chocolate as it rains down from a large three tier chocolate fountain the size of a kiddie pool at its base.
The main thing I thought of while reading this book is how important each person is to a family unit. Removing one person drastically affects the fragile family ties.
There’s also different responses to death and the ways in which everyone moves past it and works through it. Everyone found closure in their own time and walked away from Susie’s death changed.
I’d recommend this book anyone, but particularly teens and young adults. As much as it’s about death and loss, it’s about life. I think it’s important to recognize death as a part of living. And this book gives you a chance to really consider what would you do if your loved ones were gone.
If you’re interested in this book, click here.