Friday, August 14, 2009

The Lovely Bones - Alice Sebold

2002; 328 pages. Genre : Modern Literature. Awards : winner of the 'Richard & Judy Best Read Award' (whatever that is). Rating : A-.

   ."My name was Salmon, like the fish; first name, Susie. I was fourteen when I was murdered on December 6, 1973. My murderer was a man from our neighborhood. My mother liked his border flowers, and my father talked to him once about fertilizer."

   .The Lovely Bones, Alice Sebold's first novel, examines the devastating effect the murder has on the victim's family, neighbors, and high school friends. It is told in the first-person, through the mind and eyes of Susie, as she looks down on the world from her self-realized heaven. Sebold draws upon personal experience in writing this novel; she was raped during her freshman year at Syracuse University.

.What's To Like...
The story is both heartwarming and brutal. The pacing is good and the ending isn't what I expected. There is emphasis on character studies, especially of Susie's family, each of whom reacts in a different way to the tragedy. The family unit is shattered, then works at putting itself back together. Susie matures as the book goes along, as is evidenced is in her writing.

.It isn't a perfect book. Parts of the ending seem forced, and if you're looking for a Crichton-esque technical explanation of how Susie flits around our world, time-hops, and reads people's minds, you'll be disappointed. Some people were critical that Sebold's depiction of heaven wasn't more "religious" in nature. Pooh to them; Sebold's vision of the afterlife is a pleasant non-preachy change.
"These were the lovely bones that had grown around my absence : the connections - sometimes tenuous, sometimes made at great cost, but often magnificent - that happened after I was gone. And I began to see things in a way that let me hold the world without me in it. The events that my death wrought were merely the bones of a body that would become whole at some unpredictable time in the future. The price of what I came to see as this miraculous body had been my life." (page 320).

.This is a story about hope and strength, and draws upon Sebold's actions in coping with her college rape. You can read the Wiki article about her here. The writing had a poetic feel to it, which I liked.
I give The Lovely Bones a solid "A-". Highly recommended, provided that the violence of Susie's death doesn't bother you. And in closing, I've heard that the movie version of it will be coming out later this year.

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