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The Lovely Bones [Hardcover]

Alice Sebold
3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2,093 customer reviews)
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Book Description

July 3 2002
When we first meet 14-year-old Susie Salmon, she is already in heaven. This was before milk carton photos and public service announcements, she tells us; back in 1973, when Susie mysteriously disappeared, people still believed these things didn't happen. In the sweet, untroubled voice of a precocious teenage girl, Susie relates the awful events of her death and her own adjustment to the strange new place she finds herself. It looks a lot like her school playground, with the good kind of swing sets. With love, longing, and a growing understanding, Susie watches her family as they cope with their grief, her father embarks on a search for the killer, her sister undertakes a feat of amazing daring, her little brother builds a fort in her honor and begin the difficult process of healing. In the hands of a brilliant novelist, this story of seemingly unbearable tragedy is transformed into a suspenseful and touching story about family, memory, love, heaven, and living.

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From Amazon

On her way home from school on a snowy December day in 1973, 14-year-old Susie Salmon ("like the fish") is lured into a makeshift underground den in a cornfield and brutally raped and murdered, the latest victim of a serial killer--the man she knew as her neighbor, Mr. Harvey.

Alice Sebold's haunting and heartbreaking debut novel, The Lovely Bones, 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 edge of the living, always attached to her lost world, following her family's dramas over the years as if watching an episode of My So-Called Afterlife. 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

From Publishers Weekly

Sebold's first novel after her memoir, Lucky is a small but far from minor miracle. Sebold has taken a grim, media-exploited subject and fashioned from it a story that is both tragic and full of light and grace. The novel begins swiftly. In the second sentence, Sebold's narrator, Susie Salmon, announces, "I was fourteen when I was murdered on December 6, 1973." Susie is taking a shortcut through a cornfield when a neighbor lures her to his hideaway. The description of the crime is chilling, but never vulgar, and Sebold maintains this delicate balance between homely and horrid as she depicts the progress of grief for Susie's family and friends. She captures the odd alliances forged and the relationships ruined: the shattered father who buries his sadness trying to gather evidence, the mother who escapes "her ruined heart, in merciful adultery." At the same time, Sebold brings to life an entire suburban community, from the mortician's son to the handsome biker dropout who quietly helps investigate Susie's murder. Much as this novel is about "the lovely bones" growing around Susie's absence, it is also full of suspense and written in lithe, resilient prose that by itself delights. Sebold's most dazzling stroke, among many bold ones, is to narrate the story from Susie's heaven (a place where wishing is having), providing the warmth of a first-person narration and the freedom of an omniscient one. It might be this that gives Sebold's novel its special flavor, for in Susie's every observation and memory of the smell of skunk or the touch of spider webs is the reminder that life is sweet and funny and surprising.
Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

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Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Solid but not earth-shattering March 9 2006
Format:Paperback
The Lovely Bones, by Alice Sebold is a unique tale of a young girl's journey through the afterlife. Susie Salmon is a fourteen-year-old girl struggling to understand her seemingly horrible fate from heaven as life continues moving without her. As she embarks on this strange journey, Susie cannot help but watch her loved ones she has left behind to pick up the pieces. The Lovely Bones is an extraordinary piece that exemplifies the theory that there truly is life after death, far beyond the mere idea of where we go when we die. Sebold's strength as a writer makes for a unique and refreshing tale of an otherwise tragic event the novel has some, but few weaknesses. As a whole, I think this is a wonderful novel and would recommend it to anyone looking for a quality, meaningful read. I've read it twice and each time been moved to tears multiple times during the novel. I think Sebold does an amazing job defining what family means. The way she deals with the topic of death is so obscure it's like nothing I've ever read. I really was intrigued by the way she depicted heaven as so much more than clouds and angels. It's a book that not only presents a situation, but leaves room for the reader to connect the dots themselves. For another completely different read (funny and enlightening though NOTHING like "Bones") try McCrae's "Katzenjammer." Very well done.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Disturbing And Emotional! April 18 2004
Format:Hardcover
I found this book to be rather disturbing and emotional to the point that I would put it down only to pick it up again based on the fact that so many of my friends found it a good read. I admit that the idea of a young girl narrating from her idea of what Heaven is was a good one. Watching her family and the trials they go through after her murder was a different way to show us how death effects different people. With that said I must admit that I had a hard time caring how Mom, sister Lindsay, and the rest of the motley crew felt or how the death of susie affected the different characters in the end. Susie's mom was probably the most unlikeable character in my opinion, and I wanted to like her since I am also a mother and could not imagine for one second how I would feel if one of my children was taken from me in such a violent way. The way she just shut down on everyone (including her two other children) and turned to the police detective was in my opinion what turned me off to her.
Still I continued to read this book only to be totally let down by the ending. I hope my next read by this author is not such a let down.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars One of my two favorite books June 2 2005
Format:Paperback
Any reader lucky enough to peruse THE LOVELY BONES will know how fortunate they are to be in on the early stages of what appears to be a super talent. The creative story line is deftly handled so that the audience can follow how various key players, especially the Salmon family insuring Susie, cope or not with their loss. Alice Sebold provides a tremendous character driven tale that though melancholy yet optimist makes reading a heaven on earth. For anyone who has lost a loved one, LOVELY BONES gives hope, closure and healing. The aching question of "where are you?" is dealt with compassionately but without heavy religious overtones. You won't find harp plucking angels or a benevolent Father sitting on a throne. Instead a lively fourteen year old who violently leaves the earth, is most interested in keeping tabs on her family and friends. They continue to grow, she stays fourteen. They face painful obstacles she is powerless to change, and yet... It is a very worthwhile read. I only wish I hadn't finished it so quickly. This is a book to savor and Sebold's prose is lyrical. One wants to reread and write lines down. The only other book that I liked this much was BARK OF THE DOGWOOD with its quirky characters, thought-provoking ideas, humor, and decadence.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
Format:Hardcover
Captivated by critical praise and a supernatural plot, I was a bit skeptical that any book could live up to its structural and pop culture status. "The Lovely Bones" met and exceeded all of my expectations and then some. Sebold brings forth a spectrum of emotions that are both difficult to express and yet thrilling to any reader who's experienced sheer joy from the written page. Our heroine, a heaven-bound adolescent is ripped away(literally and figuratively) from earth and its bounty of family, friends and real life pleasures. Looking down from above, with newfound wisdom and more than a few regrets, the narrator steers us through a web of self-dicovery, within her self, her family, and even, within us - her audience. Sebold manages to weave a bold mosaic of sorrow and joy, disaster and bliss, with words that simply take your breath away so that you find yourself re-reading passages just to be enveloped in their magical truth again and again. This is simple yet important prose...at once whimsical and deep. It's the sort of book that makes you think twice about the choices we have, the ones we make, and the ones we might later regret not choosing.
My only wish is that Hollywood leave this novel alone and refrain from attempting to replicate its sincere qualities on-screen. No screenplay, or director, or acting ensemble could supplant the power of "the Bones'" narrative. Destined to become a perennial favorite, the "Lovely Bones" is best left to the senses and the imagination that captivates readers in unique, individual ways. Buy it, share it, cherish it!
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Most recent customer reviews
1.0 out of 5 stars I hated this book and I'm mad at myself for having ...
I hated this book and I'm mad at myself for having read the whole thing. What a waste of my time!
Published 22 days ago by Brandy
5.0 out of 5 stars Great Read
I totally enjoyed this book. It's an old story but told from the victim's point of view. Interesting and unnerving at times, but genuine. Enjoyed it very much.
Published 5 months ago by Christine
5.0 out of 5 stars Profile of a Murderer
A deeply moving story about a young woman's terrible murder. Her family and boyfriend's lives are forever changed by their loss and by their unique responses to the tragedy. Read more
Published 5 months ago by Eleanor Cowan
5.0 out of 5 stars Condition of used book
I purchased a used book, expected to see a lightly battered book, would have been thrilled to get it any old way at that great price........I wanted it so much...... Read more
Published 6 months ago by diane desjardins
5.0 out of 5 stars good read
This is good winter reading. Interesting and believable characters who each learn to deal with their grief in their own inperfect way.
Published 8 months ago by Ally
4.0 out of 5 stars daughter essay in englush class
needed it for daughter. she loved it . it was an essay in high school. she thought it was a little disturbing at the beginning but then enjoyed it
Published 10 months ago by Amazon Customer
5.0 out of 5 stars Loved this book and the movie
I saw the movie first and then read the book. I loved both of them. It's a good, bittersweet read...from start to finish.
Published 11 months ago by Lamb
5.0 out of 5 stars Good Story With a New Twist
I particularly liked the fact that the story was narrated by the deceased. It was well written--not too long and the story moved right along to the conclusion. Read more
Published 12 months ago by Chris from Canada
5.0 out of 5 stars Review for The Lovely Bones
I had the movie and wanted to read it first. The book came on time and is as described. Everything I have bought from Amazon has been excellent. Read more
Published 12 months ago by Helene Nantel
5.0 out of 5 stars This Novel Broke My Heart
I don't often read contemporary fiction. I tend to stick to the classics: Steinbeck, Vonnegut and Hawthorne spring first to mind.

I despise Dan Brown. Read more
Published 15 months ago by Adamo
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