Can you really watch our family afteryou have did? Susie Salmon can, but will her family survive?
Rita’s Rating: 4 ½ out of 5
Alice Sebold weaves a powerful family drama . The Salmons are your everyday family of the seventies. They go on about their everyday lives unaware there is a serial-killer living just a few houses down. That is until December 6, 1973 when fourteen year old Susie is raped and murdered by him. Her family is left to deal with her death anyway they can while Susie watches from her heaven.
Her father, Jack, is openly torn between bringing Susie’s killer to justice and loving his two surviving children. Both of whom lose their childhood innocence. Lindsey at thirteen is a constant reminder of Susie and is forced to become an adult before her years. Yet she manages to find happiness and her own identity in life not just the “sister of that murdered her”. Buckley at the young age of four isn’t old to completely understand and yet manages to understand more than anyone thinks. He becomes somewhat invisible to his family although they are not to him. Susie’s mother, Abigail, becomes lost in herself and her need to put it all behind her until she is finally forced to faced not only her daughter’s murder but life itself. Grandma Lynn, Abigail’s mother, who is an eccentric alcoholic, comes to live with the family in their time of need brings her set of baggage into the mix et manages to become close to her grandchildren and manage her own demons.
Susie watches and waits while Mr. Harvey, her killer, carries on with his life and his “work”. She watches while he eludes police and her father. She watches her family grieve for her and grow older has the years pass. She watches while Ray (the only boy she kissed in her young life) grows and finds love with Ruth (a girl Susie went to school with and with whom Susie’s spirit touches as she leaves the earth). All the while wishing she could still be alive and have the chance to experience the one moment she would never be allowed to have. Her experience with her rape and death define how she views relationships for many years as they are in heaven.
Alice Sebold wrote a beautiful book. While you grieve with the lost of Susie you find joy in moments of happiness the Salmon’s manage to find. It is very easy to become lost in their world. Sebold’s idea of heaven is fresh and different. Almost child-like in the way everyone has their own personal heaven, different for each depending on their own ideas of heaven. She shows you a typical family that could be your or mine and then show’s how one horrific moment in time changes everything and everyone. No one is left unaffected by the events that take place. The fact that the story takes place through the eyes of Susie is refreshing in that through her you are allowed to see and understand everyone. While some of the actions the characters take is maddening you understand them as the story unfolds. I found myself captivated and unable to put the book down. There were times when I was so angry at the police for not catching Mr. Harvey or at Abigail for the choices she makes that I could have scream. However Grandma Lynn brings the much needed down to earth common sense and comedic relief at all the right moments. In the end I found myself both crying and cheering for the ironic turn of events.