Fourteen-year-old Susie Salmon takes a shortcut home from school through a cornfield where her middle-aged neighbor, George Harvey, is waiting. When she accepts his offer to show her his cool underground den, he rapes and murders her, disposing of her dismembered remains in a sinkhole. The story unfolds as Susie’s ghost watches her father, mother, sister and friends deal with the tragedy of her death and search for answers and justice.
This book wasn’t quite what I expected when I first read it. I thought the main thrust of the plot would be devoted to tracking down her killer and bringing him to justice. But it was much more subtle and complicated than that. It’s an upsetting story, but having Susie’s ghost as narrator lends a sort of peace to the story that it wouldn’t have had being told by the father or the detective. The reader knows from the start what happened, so the pressure for justice and the need for the characters to learn the killer’s identity isn’t quite the same as it would be if we needed that information as well. Also, while Susie is dead to the characters, she is very much alive to the reader. It is upsetting, to be sure, but it is not just another serial killer book.