We have looked at how the novel has a theme of learning to live with loss and learning to begin to let go. We have also looked at how the novel looks at the grieving process as outlined by Elizabeth Kubler Ross. Susie’s death has broken each character in the novel and in terms of the five stages of grief this has created anger. Each of the characters experiences anger but they all find that they are unable to share the pain of this anger. Susie’s parents had never found themselves “broken together” before. Usually one was able to stay strong while the other needed support. Susie’s death meant that this time that both parents were broken.
In Jack’s case this idea of brokenness is physical, he smashes the ships in the bottles and he has he knee broken by a baseball bat. In Abigail’s case the moment she saw Susie’s hat “something broke” and “the fine wall of leaden crystal that had protected her heart … shattered.”
Alice Sebold is very interested in people and relationships that are broken and she concentrates on how to mend shattered relationships by beginning new ones and an example of this would be Lindsey and Samuel. Sebold once talked about all experiences being beautiful, even if that beauty is about “brokenness”. She uses the character of Samuel, the “fixer of broken things”, to show there is hope in accepting the brokenness of things.