The Lovely Bones * Alice Sebold – Book Review

“Murderers are not monsters, they’re men. And that’s the most frightening thing about them.”

Since I brought up Time to Say Goodbye, I decided to also bring up one of my favourite books about death. “The Lovely Bones,” had me crying from start to finish.

This book is an emotional roller-coaster, written from the point of view from a girl who was murdered. The book starts like this: “My name was Salmon, like the fish; first name, Susie. I was fourteen when I was murdered on December 6, 1973.” Already you want to read it; right?

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The child is 14-year-old Susie Salmon. We see the murder through her eyes, after she is killed. Susie narrates her story from heaven, a place like I’d not before imagined. Her heaven begins as her school playground. Slowly it grows to become more. Susie merely longs for something she misses from earth, and it appears, except, of course, the living. Although she can watch her loved ones, know what they are doing, thinking, and feeling, she cannot be with them, or they with her.

“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.”

You would think, at this point, that you wouldn’t be able to read further, that you’d close the book and never reopen it. But you won’t be able to. Like Susie, we want to know her family will be okay. We want to know the killer won’t get away with it. The author, Alice Sebold, artfully forces you to read on.

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You follow the life that this young girl once had as she tells you about the memories she had, the things she learned, and the people she loved. Susie also talks about her “heaven.” In her heaven, Susie does not let her family and friends go. She follows them through the years, watching her younger sister Lindsey does everything that she would have done if she was alive. Susie can’t let her family go, and they see her everywhere; in the valley where she was killed; in her fathers work room. It makes you value your family when you read about the devastation they were left with. I especially was sympathetic for her father. Through out the book you can see how difficult it was for him to realize and begin to let go of the fact that his first born had been killed. It’s hard to imagine losing a child, but from reading this book I’ve begun to realize that it’s a kind of sorrow that can only be felt by a parent. If you are in the mood for reading a depressing story then this book is definitely for you.

The diction that Alice Sebold uses creates clear visuals in my head of what it was that Susie saw, and what she felt like being dead. You invision her family members and the environment that Susie had once been in. Another things that made me like this book so much was the fact that there were details that were used to help describe Susie that were also about me. A simple once was the fact that she was reading Othello in school. The use of details to develope the characters are very well done by Alice Sebold.

“Loss could be used as a measure of beauty in a woman.”

Susie watches her friends whisper about her at school. She watches as her younger sister, Lindsey, hardens to stone. Her four-year-old brother, Buckley, is passed from neighbor to neighbor, having sleepovers, told his sister has just gone away for a bit. She listens to the detective, Len, tell her parents the inevitable, that they are now investigating her disappearance as a murder. Her family slowly begins to crumble and Susie can do nothing to help.

lovely_bones_book_cover_by_fellowdeejaaytaraa-d4fikb1.jpgThis sounds like a suffocating, depressing book, but as you read you’ll feel encouraged as Susie’s family begins to move on, never to forget, but to begin to live life without her. Buckley struggles to understand the meaning of forever. Susie’s dad becomes obsessed with proving he’s not crazy, that he’s certain who killed his daughter. Susie’s mom handles the stress by hiding from it. And Lindsey, known as the girl whose sister was murdered, strives to find herself again. She searches for love. And she takes a huge risk to help her dad flush out the killer.

The idea that life continues after death is the central theme of the novel. After the protagonist dies, she manages to stay in touch with her family by appearing at certain moments, almost like a ghost. Susie lets her family and friends know that the dead are here “All the time. You can talk to us and think about us” 

The ending is incredibly sweet. Amazing as it may seem, you will feel Susie’s joy as she lets go of those she’s left behind. For me, the ending wasn’t perfect, it left me wanting, but I imagine that was deliberate. Life itself is not perfect. But life has hope. And that’s the feeling that will stay with you as you turn the last page. It’s a memorable read, not for the faint of heart. Expect to feel. To fear, to cry, and, yes, to laugh. THE LOVELY BONES will touch the very core of your being. Alice Sebold has written beautifully of the ugliest scenario possible.

“Inside the snow globe on my father’s desk, there was a penguin wearing a red-and-white-striped scarf. When I was little my father would pull me into his lap and reach for the snow globe. He would turn it over, letting all the snow collect on the top, then quickly invert it. The two of us watched the snow fall gently around the penguin. The penguin was alone in there, I thought, and I worried for him. When I told my father this, he said, “Don’t worry, Susie; he has a nice life. He’s trapped in a perfect world.”

Sebold depicts heaven as a young child would depict a colorful candy store. Because Susie is only fourteen when she dies, the novel uses language and ideas that most teenagers would use. However, as the novel progresses, Susie’s thoughts and opinions seem to mature, almost like those of her family and friends on Earth. Just as she would have on Earth, Susie learns that life must continue, even when it seems as if it is the end of the world.

“Tell me you love me”, he said.
Gently I did.
The end came anyway.

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