The Lovely Bones (Alice Sebold)

5182hLUkNRL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_Susie passes on to another dimension, a world between Earth and Heaven. Until Susie can accept that she has died and that life will continue without her, she cannot pass on to Heaven. What unfolds is a story of love and grief, of mourning and anger. We see how her unsolved murder slowly rips her family apart, yet also forms bonds strong enough to last a life-time and how love can be stronger than death itself.

This dimension contains everything she liked, and from it she can keep an eye on her friends and family. There are multiple things I really like about this novel. First of all it has an unusual concept: a story told by a murdered girl. The writing style might tick some people off and the story isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, but I would certainly give it a try if you enjoy coming-of-age-stories, the paranormal and/or lyrical writing. What we often think of as an ending, is actually the beginning of this novel. I expected this novel to be somewhat of a detective thriller in which Susie has to leave clues to her family about the murderer and the place where he deposited of the body.

Though it does start off with a gruesome rape-murder, like many detective stories do. Alice Sebold then decided to focus more on the different ways people deal with grief. The second thing I really liked were the characters. Susie’s parents, her sister Lindsey, her classmate Ruth: all of them felt like real people who love, hate, make mistakes, get hurt and battle on. Even though three of the main characters are girls with roughly the same age, they each had a distinct personality and their own little quirks. The third thing I liked was the language. The novel is full of lyrical sentences, dreamy descriptions and metaphors. Some people hate this with a passion and will have trouble getting into the story, but I’m not one of them.

After she leaves her body, Susie learns that everyone has their own version of heaven – a theme mirrored in many other books I have read. She struggles to accept what has happened to her and so to a large extent clings to the world of the living, observing them from afar as her family and school friends slowly break apart. One of the more interesting characters is Ruth, a girl she hardly knew, but one who has a gift for sensing and also a gift for writing. Susie shadows this girl as she grows to maturity, along with Ray, her high school crush with whom she shared her first kiss.

Because of their relationship, Ray was unfairly accused of involvement in Susie’s disappearance, her body never having been found. Ray and Ruth strike up an unusual friendship which Susie watches from afar. Susie does not intervene in their lives but simply observes, much like the Divine, God whatever you like to call it (so at least I have always thought) observes us. To do anything else would go against the object of this experiment that we call life, for the journey is as always infinitely more important than our destination. So it is with this book, that the message is more important than the messenger.

The effects on Susie’s own family are understandably devastating, slowly pulling her parents marriage apart. Susie learns that her murderer has done this many times before to girls both older and younger than herself. But unlike other books I have read, does not seek justice, as this is for the living only – a bit like the ritual of funerals. For this is the act of finally letting go, something that for the most part the dead have already done. The ending may feel unjust and very unassuming, but there is reconciliation and with this the beginnings of acceptance on the part of her family who were so blown apart…a most disturbing yet touching book.

 

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Comments

  1. I liked the writing in your review better than I liked the writing in the book… this is one I finished with a resounding “Meh.” -Emmy

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  2. Thank you, Emmy. I can be flowery and bend over backwards trying to bring a book “alive” in certain reviews. I couldn’t help feeling for poor Susie though. Maybe it was her observer status that made me identify with her…not a pleasant topic to read about for sure.

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