Genres: Young Adult, Mystery, Contemporary
Publisher: Little, Brown & Company
Publication Date: July 3rd 2002 (first published January 1st 2002)
2 OUT OF 5 STARS
“My name is Salmon, like the fish; first name, Susie. I was fourteen when I was murdered.”
Susie Salmon has not lived a long and happy life. She is murdered in her teens, and it sends her small town into turmoil; temporarily. The grief her family endures lasts long after most people have pushed her memory back. Susie knows who killed her, but the police can’t find the trail. Every day Susie watches her family, would be lover, old classmates and her murderer go about their life.
At risk of sounding incredibly cliché the best way to describe this book is: hauntingly beautiful. Another accurate description would be: shallow and slow. The first bit of the book is wonderful, but somehow is devolves into another beast entirely.
The depiction of Heaven is so much more desirable than the usual white dresses and clouds. Sebold creates a beautiful world, where the dead have whatever they wish for. Where they can watch their families or move on to other things. It is a shame what we see of it is so limited. Susie lingers over the living so much that we hardly see the other residents, and it becomes a world that s mentioned mostly in passing.
Susie’s narration is brilliant. It is rare that a novel like this is narrated by the victim of a murder and Susie has a wonderful view on things. However, despite the ultimate goal of accepting death, I never felt like Susie really moved on. She is stuck in the living world, she still wants to go back and while all that is reasonable the book builds up the idea that she will move on. The end of the book feels very weak when she sort of moves on but not really.
While the book starts off running, it does slow down. Just as in real life the crime goes cold, the action halts. There was a chunk that was a bit slow to get through. Where the book becomes just about watching grieving people rebuild, the murderer occasionally left aside. The book starts in a whirlwind and then suddenly dies down. While I can appreciate the fact that life does go on after a murder reading about Ruth walking around New York or Susie’s family doing dull every day things isn’t exactly exciting.
The book starts fantastically and the rest of it just falls off. It’s still enjoyable, it still has good moments, but it feels largely like it lost it’s way. Like it forgot who it’s characters were and where it was going to take them. Towards the end it seems to get VERY confused and things start to go sideways.
The second half of the book is just strange, unreal and too convenient. It had such potential based on the first chapter, and then it collapsed on itself.