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The Lovely Bones [Hardcover]

Alice Sebold
3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2,092 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
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Not worth the paper it is written on! Nov. 30 2003
By A Customer
If you want to read a poorly organized book with stock characters, and dangling story lines, then this is the book for you!
I had the opportunity to read this book with my book club, and we all agreed it was poorly written. The characters are one-dimensional and not credible. I understand that the story is quite fantastic and incredible, but that does not mean the characters should be so unbelievable. I didn't find any of the characters "real", not Ruth, Lindsey or Samuel... to name a few! I am sure this is not the way real people act, even when placed in such an awful situation of a young girl's murder.
There were "dangling elements" in the story that the author never tied up and finished properly. It was as though she wasn't entirely sure how to end the book so she left all kinds of story lines open. This is indeed the sign of a poorly written book! Why did Ruth start out liking girls? Then all of a sudden she didn't? Why did Ruana say she would "start with Ruth..."? These are only a few of the many questions I have.
From a forensics, and crime investigation point of view, this book also falls short. I do understand that the book starts out in the 1970's, but I still think that a criminal investigation conducted then would have been much more thorough. I mean, the murderer lived right in the neighborhood of the girl - I would think the police would have at least investigated close to home.
Lastly, although the book struggles along the whole way, with choppy bits, and pointless story lines not contributing to anything in the end, there is a major event that happens in the end (I won't give the end away!) that is just too much! This is a very poor ending!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Lovely Bones- -A lovely novel Indeed Jan. 3 2005
This novel deals with the most heartbreaking situation one can go through-- the loss of a loved one in the most inhumane way. Though a fiction story, its detailed language will make you cry and hope, at the same time making you truly believe and forget it's just a book. The descriptive and vivid language will also take a life of its own, easily allowing you to visualize every moment, every cry, and every ravaging stare in a character's eyes. The Lovely Bones is a story that made me believe in the impossible and feel the pain of every character, especially of the narrator. A heart-warming story of love and tragedy full of hope, disappointment, light and heartache; truly a life lesson indeed. And of course, a life lesson you won't be able to put down!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Lovely--no bones about it Nov. 15 2004
By L. Roth
Sebold has one previous work to her credit, that being the nonfiction LUCKY, a haunting account of the author's rape at age 18. THE LOVELY BONES is a haunting work as well, but in the literal sense of the word --- for the narrator of THE LOVELY BONES is a 14-year-old girl murdered during the commission of an unspeakable act committed by a quiet, monstrous man of such vileness that the reader wants nothing other than to reach into the pages of the book, grab him, and rip his face off. The victim, Susie Salmon ("like the fish," as she tells us early on), relates her fate with a poetic matter-of-factness; she is at peace as she narrates, from her heaven, an account of what happened before and after her death as well as the repercussions of her death upon her family. What she wants is that her family achieve peace and that her murderer encounter justice. You can tell THE LOVELY BONES is a going to be sad just by reading the is that what you want? to cry? just like you did when you read "where the red fern grows" as a child? i think most people picked up this book hoping and praying that it wouldn't be as sad as it seems- and luckily, it isn't. the whole point of the story is how we can overcome loss, even at the darkest hours of our life. i hope that nobody close to me dies in such a horrible way as suzy did, but i know that deep down i will remember this book. hopefully, it gives light to those people who are overcome with terrible loss, and inspiration to those of us who have been lucky enough never to have had a loved one perish. this book is now one of my favorites, because although not all of the characters are likeable, they all overcome some sort of obstacle. If you're one for a page turner like LB, then you might try THE BARK OF THE DOGWOOD. It's funny, harrowing, VERY unusual, and above all, enjoyable and frank. Highly recommended.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Very disappointing July 6 2004
By A Customer
I was really looking forward to reading this book after hearing so many people rave about it, but I found it incredibly disappointing. As mentioned by another reviewer, I too had to force myself to finish it - I kept hoping that the book would redeem itself by the end, but the writing was not strong enough to follow through on what, initially, is an interesting idea.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars A waste of time May 2 2004
By A Customer
The book would have been perfect if it ended at the first chapter. The concept of the story is good but was poorly writen. The story went on and on and on... then ended.
A good idea gone bad.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Now I remember . . . April 6 2004
By A Customer
I finally broke down and read this book because of all the buzz it generated - after all, "Cold Mountain" generated a lot of buzz, and it was an excellent book. Unfortunately, this book reminded me of why I shy away from books on the best seller lists: They're usually pap. I think I'll go back to avoiding the best seller lists.
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Most recent customer reviews
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 1 month 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 2 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 2 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 5 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 7 months ago by Tina
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 7 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 8 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 8 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 12 months ago by Adamo
5.0 out of 5 stars SO SAD
The book is detailed and well written. The movie has no comparison. Lovely Bones is a sad story but leaves you hopeful. Great read.
Published on June 21 2012 by nikki
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