I sort of wanted to read this book, because so many people were talking about it (I like to be reasonably up-to-date with the most popular current reads), but I was also dreading it because of the subject matter. It's about (and this really isn't a spoiler, trust me) a teenaged girl who is murdered, and the aftermath of her death on her family and friends. The twist is that the story is told *by* the dead girl. I was concerned, though, that it would be too intense, too horrible to read about this sort of subject matter, and that I'd regret it afterwards. (Because, of course, once you've read or seen something and it's entered your psyche, you can't just "undo" it; Over the years, I've struggled with what I consider to be unreasonable fears caused by media I've experienced, so I've become much more selective in my viewing/reading these days; if I think something will disturb or really frighten me, I just don't watch it). Still, I was curious, and when I had the opportunity to join a bookring for the book, I signed up.
I needn't have worried. It was a wonderful, touching and beautiful book. I think I'd better put the rest of my comments behind a cut, because they might be considered spoilerish:
Yes, there were definitely things that were sad, and the fact of Susie's death is horrible. But I found that I was able to distance myself from the horror because of her constant presence as the narrator. I was comforted by the knowledge that she hadn't been destroyed; she was just in a different place. The concept of heaven was interesting - I've often thought it likely that at least part of what we experience after we die might be dictated by what we believe about the afterlife while we're alive. There was a bit of that in this story, I thought.
It's interesting for me that so many people still found this book horrifying. Yes, we do see her family in pain. But for some reason, I was never really able to connect with that pain myself - or, perhaps I just didn't *allow* myself to connect with it. There were times when I could feel my mind starting to move in a scary direction, and I decided just not to go there. As a parent myself, this sort of thing is literally my worst nightmare. So I think I allowed myself to stay focused on Susie as a way of sheltering myself from what the rest of her family was still feeling.
I found a lot of beauty and peace in this book. There were a couple of things I'd have liked to have been different (I'm not sure I liked the bit at the end with Ray and Ruth), but on the whole I found it fascinating and lovely. I kept turning pages and had a hard time putting it down. I'm definitely glad I read this book, even though I wasn't sure I should.