After her death, Susie narrates the novel in the first person from heaven as she uses her omniscience to observe her friends and family.The novel focuses on how those who knew Susie react to her death and attempt to move forward with their lives.Harvey rapes and kills her, then dismembers her body, which he then throws into a local sinkhole.
The police investigate Harvey but rule him out as a suspect.
The Salmon parents, Jack and Abigail, take conflicting positions: Jack becomes suspicious of Harvey, while Abigail puts her faith in Detective Fenerman.
Susie’s friends and classmates leave town and move on with their lives: Lindsey and her boyfriend Samuel graduate from high school and go off to university together; Ray attends university where he studies to be a doctor; and Ruth moves to NYC where she walks the city and sees the spirits of dead women and children, writing down her visions in her journal.
Several years later, Lindsey and Samuel are returning from their university graduation when a storm drives them into an old abandoned house outside of town.
Abigail’s mother, Grandma Lynn, moves into Susie’s room to help Jack take care of the household and raise his youngest child, Buckley.
Fenerman is later able to connect Harvey to Susie’s murder, as well as the murder of several other women, but Harvey is never caught.However, Harvey returns early and sees Lindsey as she flees.Fenerman misses the call about the evidence and the break-in as he is with Abigail, so Harvey is able to flee town.Although Jack still loves Abigail, Buckley hates her for abandoning the family.Meanwhile, Ruth and Ray, who have kept in touch over the years, return to Norristown in order to see the sinkhole before it is closed up due to the ongoing residential development.Inside, they become engaged and decide to buy and fix up the house.At home, Jack has a heart attack during an argument with Buckley and is hospitalized, prompting Abigail’s return.Susie sees the spirits of Harvey’s other victims and sees his tragic and abusive childhood.Abigail leaves the family, traveling to California where she works at a winery.As the investigation stalls, Jack becomes increasingly convinced that Harvey is the murderer, which widens the growing rift between him and Abigail.One evening, Jack sees a flashlight coming from the cornfield.