The setting of the story takes place in Norristown, Pennsylvania, a suburb of Philadelphia, in 1973-1981, "before kids of all races and genders started appearing on milk cartons and in the daily mail ... when people believed things like that [Suzie's murder] didn't happen" (5). Her murder takes place in an underground den in the middle of a cornfield during a wintry night, which can have a gloomy affect on people.
Suzie Salmon was 14 years old when she died. She was a white girl with mousy brown hair. She was not a very physically strong girl, but she was very intelligent: a member of the Chess Club, Chem Club, and got good grades in school. According to her father, Jack, Suzie has a lot of spunk, which he backs up with a story about how she was jealous when her little sister Lindsey was born and peed on her when she was in her carrier. She is the narrator of the story and tells it from heaven.
The story starts with Suzie introducing herself and how she died. On December 6, 1973 she took a shortcut through a small cornfield from her junior high to her home. When she stopped to taste a snowflake, her neighbor, George Harvey (referred to as Mr. Harvey) stopped her and persuaded her to enter an underground den he built nearby. Once she entered, he raped and stabbed her, and cut her body into small parts so it was easier to carry. Unknown to Mr. Harvey, her elbow fell out of his bag on the way home, the only body part to ever be recovered of her body.
She arrived in heaven and met a fellow teenager Holly. They were both approached by a friendly adult named Franny, who was their intake counselor for heaven. Suzie met other people in "her" heaven, and...