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.
This is the second Alice Sebold book to be reviewed at 5-Squared. You can read Amber's review of The Almost Moon here. She gave that one five stars; I give this one 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 Lovely Bones will be coming out as a movie later this year.


Amanda said...

I have to admit I'm a little scared of this one. I've heard it's pretty graphic.

hamilcar barca said...

you can actually avoid it by just skipping the first chapter. you already know what happened, and there aren't any vital clues or insights in Chapter One that you'll need later on.

Chapter 2 starts with Susie arriving in heaven, which is really where/when the story begins anyway.

Amanda said...

Interesting. Well, if I ever decide to read this or if I have to for some reason, I'll keep that in mind.

margaret said...

I remember reading this book a couple of years ago - and I liked it. I thought it was a good book. I liked how you got to see her family's life go beyond her death and still continue :)

OMG! I didn't ruin the book did I?


L said...

I remember not liking the ending although I don't remember what it was - I read it so long ago. That hot guy from ER is in the movie I think. Don't know who plays the lead.

Unknown said...


If you were talking about some OTHER doctor from ER, you obviously don't know what you're talking about. NOONE beats the hotness that is Uncle Jesse. Except maybe Johnny Depp. And not in Pirates. The whole dreds thing is not working for me.

Rebecca Reid said...

I just started the audiobook. I'm liking it so far, but I agree about the first chapter being rather disturbing/violent. I think the underlying message is not so disturbing, though. I'll have to consider the big picture, I guess.

Thanks for the review. I'm glad to hear you gave it a high grade.

Serena said...

I really enjoyed this novel when I read it the first time around. It was graphic, which was unsettling, but necessary given the subject matter. great review.

L said...

Ewww! Uncle Jesse? I shudder at the scary thought. I think it's that guy from Yugoslavia or some country of the sort. Blue eyes, dark hard, swarthy look. Or maybe it's that spanish guy del toro. Oh crap now I can't remember at all. Maybe it is uncle jesse!! I'm a Twenty-one Jump Street Johnny fan personally.

Unknown said...

He was very pretty good-looking in Finding Neverland, the clothes being particularly dashing on top of it all.

Look, Ms. Lula... if you love Uncle Jesse, it's okay. It's not something you need to hide. It's worth noting that he's been divorced from his Victoria's Secret model wife since 2005, so he's totally available, if you can get past the dated-Paula-Abdul stuff.

And just in case that scared you too much, I only know that much abotu him 'cause I looked on Wikipedia. And good news! He'll be appearing in the upcoming Broadway revival of Bye Bye Birdy! ;)

Amanda said...

Jason, you are one weird man...

Jena said...

I liked this book a lot until about 2/3 of the way through. (I think. It's been years.) You know the part where my feelings flipped, right? I didn't recommend this book to many people, but one of my students was really interested in reading it, so I Bookcrossed it to her. She never journaled it at Bookcrossing, so I have no idea what happened to it or what she thought of it. Or whether she ever finished it.