I picked up this work because of my interest in the upcoming Peter Jackson film. But I soon found that I cared far more for the substance of the novel than the imagery of the film. This book follows the narrative of Susie Salmon, a fourteen year old who was murdered. It mostly takes place after the murder as her narrative of what happens to her family because of her death. The author really spends time building these core characters, and tells a story that takes place over many years in a short enough span to not bore you. I finished this book in less than a day, it is a simple read.
This book spends a lot of reflective time in Susie Salmon's heaven. "Heaven" or the "In-Between" in this book is not a perfect place. Susie does meet other spirits there, but spends most of her time watching her family. There is plenty of emotion in this book. Her father is the most convincing character to me. He turns obsessive after he learns that it was a murder and falls into depression. He tries desperately to find her killer. My least favorite character in this book surprisingly, is the mother. She does end up leaving the family for a time. This plot line is not followed by Susie in heaven very much other to say that she works at a vineyard. This really hardened me to the character. Even though I disliked this character, the author did a good job making a believable person. Susie's ex-interest Ray also gets involved with Ruth, who seems to have "felt" Susie pass her. And is changed afterwards.
Overall, I really did enjoy this book. Even though it was a short novel and moved quickly I felt that I got my monies worth. If anything, the only disappointing parts of this book is the conclusion of the Ray/Susie/Ruth relationship. But you will just have to read to find out what I'm talking about. Also, the fate of Mr. Harvey, even though it is matched up to an earlier subject in the book, left me feeling like I needed more. As a bonus I bought the copy of the novel pictured above, it has a reading group guide in the back. I liked the questions and wish I had some other people to discuss this with!