On her way home from school on a snowy December day, 14-year-old Susie Salmon is lured into a cornfield and brutally raped and murdered, the latest victim of a serial killer. The Lovely Bones, Alice Sebold's haunting and heartbreaking debut novel, unfolds from heaven, where "life is a perpetual yesterday" and where Susie narrates and keeps watch over her grieving family and friends, as well as her brazen killer and the sad detective working on her case.
As Sebold fashions it, everyone has his or her own version of heaven. Susie's resembles the athletic fields and landscape of a suburban high school: a heaven of her "simplest dreams", where "there were no teachers... We never had to go inside except for art class... The boys did not pinch our backsides or tell us we smelled; our textbooks were Seventeen and Glamour and Vogue".
The Lovely Bones works as an odd yet affecting coming-of-age story. Susie struggles to accept her death while still clinging to the lost world of the living, following her family's dramas over the years. Her family disintegrates in their grief: her father becomes determined to find her killer, her mother withdraws, her little brother Buckley attempts to make sense of the new hole in his family and her younger sister Lindsey moves through the milestone events of her teenage and young adult years with Susie riding spiritual shotgun. Random acts and missed opportunities run throughout the book--Susie recalls her sole kiss with a boy on earth as "like an accident--a beautiful gasoline rainbow".Though sentimental at times, The Lovely Bones is a moving exploration of loss and mourning that ultimately puts its faith in the living and that is made even more powerful by a cast of convincing characters. Sebold orchestrates a big finish and though things tend to wrap up a little too well for everyone in the end, one can only imagine (or hope) that heaven is indeed a place filled with such happy endings. --Brad Thomas Parsons, Amazon.com
This book is exquisitely disturbing. It isn't for most people and, in fact, it isn't the type of book that I would normally pick up except that one of the teachers in the staffroom highly recommended it.
I've never found mass murderers to be of much interest and the brutality at the beginning of the story was a bit too much for me. However, I liked the fresh point of view in the book. It was interesting to read the words of a dead narrator. You watch the story unfold from the narrator's perspective (often from heaven) and you get to see into the hearts and minds of all the people connected to her. It's also fascinating to see how the other characters relate to one another as well as the amazing description of Suzie's personal heaven. I'll say it again: it's interesting.
I liked Sebold's writing style and most of the time I felt drawn forward into the story, wanting more and wondering how it would all turn out. As I entered the last 100 pages I was eager to finish it and stayed up until 1 am to do so.
I'm not sure how other readers react to this book, but I found the end to be very sad and I had to fight back tears a few times. It is a rough ride for sure. From beginning to end, this book is a difficult read because of the heavy content. This is not young adult literature. I'm not even sure I can recommend it to you unless you've read other dramatic, tear-jerker type stories and enjoyed them. Can you handle the disturbing "horror movie" type of beginning? Can you handle reading a book about murder and death and mourning?
I was both disturbed and delighted by this one. I will recommend it to others like me who wouldn't normally read this type of story but are ready to try something a bit different and who can handle the heavy content.