1. In Susie's heaven, she is surrounded by things that bring her peace. What would your heaven be like? Is it surprising that in Susie's inward, personal version of the hereafter there is no God or larger being that presides?
2. Why does Ruth become Susie's main connection to Earth? Was it accidental that Susie touched Ruth on her way up to heaven, or was Ruth actually chosen to be Susie's emotional conduit?
3. Rape is one of the most alienating experiences imaginable. Susie's rape ends in murder and changes her family and friends forever. Alienation is transferred, in a sense, to Susie's parents and siblings. How do they each experience loneliness and solitude after Susie's death?
4. Why does the author include details about Mr. Harvey's childhood and his memories of his mother? By giving him a human side, does Sebold get us closer to understanding his motivation? Sebold explained in an interview
about the novel that murderers "are not animals but men," and that is what makes them so frightening. Do you agree?
5. Discuss the way in which guilt manifests itself in the various characters—Jack, Abigail, Lindsay, Mr. Harvey, Len Fenerman.
6. "Pushing on the inbetween" is how Susie describes her efforts to connect with those she has left behind on Earth. Have you ever felt as though someone was trying to communicate with you from "the inbetween"?
7. Does Buckley really see Susie, or does he make up a version of his sister as a way of understanding, and not being too emotionally damaged by, her death? How do you explain tragedy to a child? Do you think Susie's parents
do a good job of helping Buckley comprehend the loss of his sister?
8. Susie is killed just as she was beginning to see her mother and father as real people, not just as parents. Watching her parents' relationship change in the wake of her death, she begins to understand how they react to the world and to each other. How does this newfound understanding affect Susie?