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 text refers to an alternate
From Publishers Weekly
Reading her breakout novel, Sebold's even, unemotional voice is a good match for both the drab setting of a Midwest town enduring the 1970s and for her matter-of-fact writing, which manages to seem grounded even as the protagonist narrates from heaven after her brutal murder. Sebold doesn't bother with voicing characters differently; the murdered girl, Susie Salmon, is the listener's window into the world she was forced to leave behind, and Sebold uses a flat, deliberate voice that manages to sound both weary and wistful. Snatches of melancholy chamber music close each track and provide more explicit emotion. What Sebold's voice lacks in stylistic flourish she makes up for with perfect pacing. In an introductory segment, Sebold recounts the novel's genesis and mentions that part of her working process involves reading everything back to herself, which explains her expert rhythm. On the final disc, Sebold reads the first chapter of her 2007 novel, The Almost Moon. While Sebold's fans will be eager for the chance to hear her read, the uninitiated may wish for a bit more passion in her presentation. A Back Bay Books paperback (Reviews, June 17, 2002).
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