I have passed this book up many times over the last 5 years or so. To be honest, one of the only reasons I read it this time around is because it was on The New Classics Challenge list. This is my third book read for the challenge. I never picked it up before because it sounded DEPRESSING.
14 year old Susie Salmon is brutally raped and murdered. She tells her story from heaven as she watches her family, friends and her killer on earth. Don't get me wrong, I can get down with a good cry, but this sounded a little too close to an all out sob fest.
I was right and wrong about this book. I loved it, but also a little bit hated it.
It felt almost entirely dependent on the concept (dead girl, narrating from heaven), and it didn't come off like the most skillfully crafted book. The writing seemed inconsistent for a 14 year old narrator, it started strong - very youthful but smart. But then there were times when it seemed like someone with much more experience, insight, and plain old vocabulary than a 14 year old girl was narrating the story. I suppose with death comes clarity and maturity, but it wasn't done consistently and for that, it bothered me.
I also didn't like heaven. It felt kind of half-assed to me. Supposedly, heaven is what you make of it - if you can envision something for yourself, it will appear. If I flash back to myself at 14, my heaven would have been pretty awesome. Instead, for Susie Salmon, heaven is high school, where she has a roommate who plays a saxophone/flute duet with their old lady neighbor while a bunch of dogs dance around? Ummm... what? If I'm honest, maybe part of the reason for my disappointment with heaven was that I badly wanted it to be awesome for Susie. I was so depressed and horrified when she told the story of her own murder that I needed to know her heaven was at least some sort of reward for her. Instead, her heaven bummed me out further.
Lastly, and I know I'm kind of ragging on Alice Sebold here, but this book gave me nightmares! For reals. For you to understand why my nightmare was Alice's fault, I must first give you a small spoiler - Susie Salmon's murderer is a serial killer that lives just down the street from her family and goes unsuspected for an entire year after the murder. He is also officially the creepiest character I've ever read about in a book (even more than Cathy in East of Eden) - end spoiler. So a few nights ago, I had the scariest dream ever that there was a killer lurking in my neighborhood and that when he came for me I couldn't yell for help and ran like I was running through a big pile of molasses. After that, I stopped reading this book before bed.
Okay, end of rag session. Complaints aside, I really did fall in love with the Salmon family. I really felt for every one of the characters, particularly her father who was my favorite but made me cry almost constantly. I was always dying to know what was happening with Ruth and Ray. I appreciated that finally, towards the end of the book, some justice was dealt and that some semblance of healing and peace came to the characters left on earth. Like it or not, the book definitely left me with some clear imagery that will not fade quickly.
1 week ago