October 07, 2011

The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold

Wow. This was another one of those books where I finished it and just kind of sat for a few moments trying to make sense of it all. It was certainly interesting, and had parts that were both brutal and beautiful. But then it also had parts that left me deeply unsatisfied with the book.

The first perspective is from Susie Salmon. She is looking down from her "heaven" after she has been murdered. Through her eyes we see the grief of her parents and siblings, the actions of her neighbors and friends, and the sly cunning of the man who murdered her. She jumps back in forth through time showing things she remembers from her own life and also experiencing new parts of life that she missed out on by dying vicariously through her remaining family members and friends. She sees their struggles and pain, their reactions to her death and the inability to cope. When she's not looking down on them, she explores briefly her own world where she is now. The "heaven" she has made for herself isn't as spectacular as she thought it would be, but more provides a training ground into acceptance.

Susie as the narrator, is of course one of the people mostly closely connected to in this book. She drifts from being young to mature when describing her family and their actions and her emotions come through strongly. She is a bit biased of course, having once been alive and human, and so her siblings and parents are described through her eyes. Her mother is lonely and somewhat selfish. Her father is a martyr and dedicated to his family and especially her memory. Her sister is distant but strong. And her little brother is lost and forgotten at times. She also sees her friends but they aren't given as much description as her family is, aside from a few that she follows while they grow up.

Sebold's writing is beautiful. And she doesn't hesitate to show the grittier horrifying aspects of the novel either. Susie's rape and murder are described in this book and it hurts to read. Its also difficult to read that she was dismembered but this is also mentioned several times. It may be too much for some readers to handle. She does a good job of describing emotion though and that takes precedence in this book. It is all about emotion; Susie's, her family's, her friends, and I can see where it is very realistic. The first two thirds of the novel are splendidly written, and then we get to the last third. I'm not sure why but it was in a completely different tone and I did not enjoy it as well. Without giving anything away, I do want to say that there is a scene in the last part that completely cheapened the whole novel for me and should have been left out. The rest seemed as if it was hastily written to appeal to the masses instead of staying true to the original workings of the book. It was very disappointing.

Its still a book worth reading though and I do recommend it. It's a touching story and it does have an impact on the emotions. Having read this book, I will probably check out some of Sebold's other works.

The Lovely Bones
Copyright 2002
328 pages

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