Monday, March 22, 2010

Review: The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold

Powerful...moving...and horrific.

"My name was Salmon, like the fish; first name, Susie. I was fourteen when I was murdered on December 6, 1973."


So begins the story of Susie Salmon, who is adjusting to her new home in heaven, a place that is not at all what she expected, even as she is watching life on earth continue without her — her friends trading rumors about her disappearance, her killer trying to cover his tracks, her grief-stricken family unraveling. Out of unspeakable tragedy and loss, THE LOVELY BONES succeeds, miraculously, in building a tale filled with hope, humor, suspense, even joy. - Synopsis

It's not often I find writing so powerful that I am weeping after only the first page. 

I once read a review in which the reviewer had a hard time using words like "beautiful" or "enjoyed" and I wish I could remember who that reviewer was, because now that I am trying to put this into words, I myself am at a loss.  One does not "enjoy" a book like The Lovely Bones.  Did I turn the pages easily?  Yes.  Was I intrigued by the story?  Yes.  Did I connect with the characters?  Yes.  But, just don't ask me if I enjoyed the book.  Here's an example of why:

"And they had never understood, as they did now, what the word horror meant."


I re-read this book for my book club, having first read it seven years ago.  What was the difference between reading it now and reading then?  Motherhood.  There are some great books on my shelf that are worth revisiting for numerous reasons, but this is one of those books that took on a whole new meaning the second time around. 

There are a lot of people who have already read The Lovely Bones, and many more who have seen the movie.  Still, there is no way to spoil this book by talking about it.  You know right from the start that Susie Salmon is dead and you know who her killer is, even if her family doesn't.  This is not a murder-mystery.  A girl went missing one day.  This is her story and it's the story of the family and friends she left behind to deal with the horror of losing her.  What makes this story unique is that it's Susie's story, from her point of view as she watched her family after her own death.

"I saw the chances of Mr. Harvey's capture diminish as I watched the end of my family as I had known it ignite." 

Susie's family is broken.  Her father and mother, especially, are broken.  Sebold's writing paints a picture of grief like none that I've read before or since.  All of this being said, while the content and scenes are heavy, there are a few lighter moments that help to move the storyline along, especially those with Susie's grandmother, whose primary goal is to give the family back some semblance of normalcy. 

Susie's life may be over, but we do hear this story from her point of view, from her new existence in her heaven.  If there is anything light I take out of this story, it's the idea that everyone's heaven is of their own making.  I remember loving this notion the first time I read the book, and some of only levity the reader gets while reading it.

Movie Trailer (haven't seen it yet...so don't throw tomatoes at me!)


About the Author:
Alice Sebold is the bestselling author of the novels The Lovely Bones and The Almost Moon, and Lucky, a memoir. She lives in California with her husband, the novelist Glen David Gold.
Complete Bio for Alice Sebold
Visit the author's website: Alice Sebold

About the Book:
The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold
Paperback: 288 pages
Publisher: Little Brown and Company (January 1, 2002)
ISBN-13: 9780316168816
ISBN: 0316168815


2 comments:

MarceJ said...

What a lovely review, I didn't want to get caught up in the hype but I really loved your review. Adding to the TBR list.

Stephanie said...

I read this book awhile back and want to read it again.

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