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The setting shifts in both time period and place in this novel. The novel begins with an exact date-December 6, 1973, but the plot shifts back and forth from past, present, and future.
The place also shifts back and forth. It takes place on both heaven and Earth. Most of the action takes place on Earth, but some does occur in heaven.
Sebold's novel takes place in 1973, in upstate, rural New York's Stofulz County. The protagonist, Susie Salmon, was killed on December 6. Susie alternates between watching action on Earth from Heaven, remembering her past on Earth, and adjusting to her new reality as a spirit.
Most of the descriptions of her home on Earth are non-distinct,
But on December 13, 1973, it was snowing and I took a short-cut through the cornfield back from junior high. It was dark out because the days were shorter in winter, and I remember how the broken cornstalks made my walk more difficult. The snow was falling lightly, like a flurry of small hands...".
We learn that the Susie is in New York from her description of taking a day-trip in which she goes with her class to the Museum of Natural History.
Later, in Chapter 4, the news item announcing her murder, we get the name of the county:
MISSING, FOUL PLAY SUSPECTED; ELBOW FOUND BY NEIGHBORING DOG; GIRL, 14, BELIEVED KILLED IN STOLFUZ COUNTY CORNFIELD.
Sebold probably purposely made her setting on Earth rather vague because Susie's story could be anyone's story. It helps the reader identify with her life and after-life.
Her hometown is Philadelphia. On page 262 when Abigail is informed about Jack's heart attack, she places a call to Pennsylvania and then proceeds to take a flight to Chicago and then on to Philadelphia.
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