The novel ends with a stranger discovering Susie’s lost charm bracelet, and his wife remarking: “This little girl’s grown up by now…”¯ Our continuous narrator hears and sees, and naturally, responds.Ā Her reply is mercurial and philosophical: what does it mean, both literally and concretely, and in terms of how the story ends?
Susie’s reply was indeed a significant ending of the novel: she answered “Almost. Not quite. I wish you all a long and happy life”¯ (Sebold 312). As simple as this answer seems, it is possible to uncover at least three layers and meanings in this phrase. First of all, Susie’s phrase reminds the reader that although Susie has witnessed life stories of her relatives and of other people from her heaven, and even shared some of their experiences (like it was in the case of kiss with Ray), she never had an opportunity to grow up, and the fact of murder cannot be compensated by anything. Based on a literal understanding of Susie’s answer, this layer reveals the tragic side of the novel, and reminds of the irreversibility of life.
At the same time, Susie’s reply also contains a second layer: she has passed through her own story of maturation, and her soul survived many feelings and emotions, from revenge, empathy and sorrow to the wish of justice and understanding that all souls in this world are going through their own course of trials. She has really grown up, and to a certain extent the readers have also become a bit more mature after reading this novel. Finally, it is possible to discover one more layer in Susie’s response: Susie has passed through a significant transformation of her spirit, and although she did not have the chance to experience life to the fullest, she has overcome her wish to return to earthly pleasures and experiences, and discovered so much kindness and empathy in herself that wished all people a long and happy life. In my opinion, Alice Sebold here shows something like a Hinduist vision of God ”“ all souls carry divine light, and can discover this light inside. From this point of view, Susie’s response points out at the eternal circle of life and at the inclusion of every living being in this circle.