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The Lovely Bones [Paperback]

Alice Sebold
3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2,094 customer reviews)
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Product Description

From Amazon

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, --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

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).
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From School Library Journal

Adult/High School-"I was fourteen when I was murdered on December 6, 1973," says Susie Salmon in this intriguing novel. Teens will immediately be drawn into this account of a girl who was raped and killed, and tells her story from "heaven." She realizes gradually that she is in an interim heaven until she can let go of her earthly concerns. The place is like school with Seventeen for a textbook and no teachers. On Earth, her mother needs to leave the family for a time, her sister seems to have Susie constantly in her thoughts, her young brother grows into a pensive preteen, and her grief-stricken father spends much of his time seeking out the murderer, even after it seems that the police have given up. The narrator observes the disparate ways her family and friends cope, and finally sees that they are resolving their grief as "the lovely bones" of their lives knit themselves around the empty space that was her life. While the subject matter is grim, the telling is light and frequently humorous-Susie remains 14 even though 8 years pass in the other characters' lives. This novel will encourage discussion. There is a slight feeling of magical realism, but there is grounding in real adolescence.
Susan H. Woodcock, Fairfax County Public Library, Chantilly, VA
Copyright 2002 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Library Journal

Sebold, whose previous book, Lucky, told of her own rape and the subsequent trial of her attacker, here offers a powerful first novel, narrated by Susie Salmon, in heaven. Brutally raped and murdered by a deceptively mild-mannered neighbor, Susie begins with a compelling description of her death. During the next ten years, she watches over her family and friends as they struggle to cope with her murder. She observes their disintegrating lives with compassion and occasionally attempts, sometimes successfully, to communicate her love to them. Although the lives of all who knew her well are shaped by her tragic death, eventually her family and friends survive their pain and grief. In Sebold's heaven, Susie continues to grow emotionally. She learns that human existence is "the helplessness of being alive, the dark bright pity of being human feeling as you went, groping in corners and opening your arms to light all of it part of navigating the unknown." Sebold's compelling and sometimes poetic prose style and unsparing vision transform Susie's tragedy into an ultimately rewarding novel. Highly recommended for academic and public libraries.
- Cheryl L. Conway, Univ. of Arkansas Lib., Fayetteville
Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Booklist

Few novels, debut or otherwise, are as masterful or as compelling as Sebold's. Her heroine, 14-year-old Suzy Salmon, is murdered in the first chapter, on her way home from school. Suzy narrates the story from heaven, viewing the devastating effects of her murder on her family. Each member reacts differently: her gentle father grieves quietly, intent on finding her killer; her aloof mother retreats from the family; her tough younger sister, Lindsey, keeps everything inside, except for the occasional moment when she tentatively opens up to her boyfriend; and her four-year-old brother, Bucky, longs for his older sister and can't comprehend her absence. Suzy also watches Ray Singh, the boy who kissed her for the first time, who represents all of her lost hopes, and Ruth Connors, who became obsessed with death and murder after Suzy's passing. Under Suzy's watchful eye, the members of her family individually grow away from her murder, each shaped by it in their own way. In heaven, Suzy herself continues to grapple with her death as well, still longing for her family and for Earth, until she is finally granted a wish that allows her to fulfill one of her dreams. Sebold's beautiful novel shows how a tragedy can tear a family apart, and bring them back together again. She challenges us to re-imagine happy endings, as she brings the novel to a conclusion that is unfalteringly magnificent. And she paints, with an artist's precision, a portrait of a world where the terrible and the miraculous can and do co-exist. Kristine Huntley
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.


Publishers Weekly Those who relished Lauck's bestselling memoir Blackbird will dive happily into this statisfying sequel....Lauck's voice successfully blends the tragic-turned-triumphant heroine with the everywoman.

The Washington Post Lauck's writing is admirably unadorned, never distracting attention from her gripping story.

Booklist Not only are Lauck's tragic experiences utterly compelling, but her lucid prose works magic, involving readers so deeply they feel as if Lauck's losses and triumphs are their own. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

About the Author

Alice Sebold is the author of three #1 bestselling books, the novels The Lovely Bones and The Almost Moon and the memoir Lucky. She lives in California with her husband, the novelist Glen David Gold. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

Chapter One: Reno, Nevada May 1975

The bus pulls into the Reno terminal and I hold the dirty duffel bag in my lap. People stand on the sidewalk and all the faces are just faces with eyes that don't look for me.

Inside my chest is a heavy alone feeling. Maybe no one will be here for me. I get off the bus and look around and my eyes stop on Grandpa Ed, Daddy's daddy.

"There she is," Grandpa yells.

I squeeze my fingers around the bag strap and walk until we are face to face, me small, him tall. Grandpa has his hands fisted on his hips like he has something to say but he just looks at me and shakes his head.

"Well, give your old Grandpa a hug," he says, kneeling down, arms wide.

I drop my bag and hug around his neck, the smell of coffee mixed with peppermint. He's just like I remember -- round cheeks, wide nose, white hair, and bushy white eyebrows. Grandpa laughs deep and warm against my face and stops hugging first.

"My goodness," he says, hands on the top of my shoulders, holding me back, "you're a young lady now."

My throat hurts, a lumpy kind of hurt and I smile and nod since I don't know what else to do. My arms and body still feel Grandpa's hug. I wish I was still hugging him.

I look at my tennis shoes with the hole worn through that shows my big toe and the silver key for the pink trunk is tucked safe under the laces.

Grandpa picks up my duffel bag and stands up then. "Is this all you brought with you?"

"No," I say. "My trunk is under the bus."

"Under the bus?"

A man unloads suitcases and boxes on the sidewalk.

"There," I say.

My trunk is pink and silver with flecks of gray and inside is everything I could fit. There are the wedding photos of Momma and Daddy, her pearls and wedding ring, stuff from my princess bedroom and my books.

I run up the sidewalk, pat the side of the trunk and it makes the solid sound of something packed tight. I put my hands on the black handle and lift, cool metal against my legs. The trunk is heavy but it's not too heavy to carry.

"Hey now," Grandpa says, "don't go and break your back."

"I can do it," I say. "I've done it a hundred times."

Grandpa moves his golf hat around on his head.

"That may be so, Jennifer Lauck," Grandpa says, "but you put that darn thing down and let me get it for you."

It's funny how he says my whole name, all serious, and I roll my lips together to keep from smiling. Grandpa bends, puts his hand on the black trunk handle and lifts like it's going to be easy.

"Be careful," I say. "It's heavy."

He makes a deep grunt sound and lets go of the trunk, stands straight, hands pushed into the low part of his back. He looks at me, at the trunk, and then laughs out loud.

"You're right," Grandpa says. "It is heavy."

Maybe it's the way he says those words, so surprised, maybe it's how he looks at me like I'm crazy for trying to carry the trunk myself or maybe it's how long it's been since I've seen him and how good it is to know he's here. I can't help but laugh at Grandpa and the two of us laugh so hard right there in the Reno bus terminal, I think I am going to cry.

Reno air is so hot, it's like being slapped across the face and it is this dusty color, not brown, not gray, but in-between with the lightest shade of green from the sagebrush bushes that grow everywhere.

Grandpa and me ride in his big car called a Tornado. Grandpa says he just had it painted to match his golf cart back home. He calls the color metallic green.

The air conditioner is on full blast and the smell of the air is wet and cold.

I look out the window at everything, the wide blue of the sky, the sagebrush, the flasher signs with the names of casinos in bright lights. come to the mapes, win at the nugget.

I know I'm here, but I can still feel L.A. in my body, dirty pavement under my feet, homeless people holding up their cups and asking for a nickel and in my stomach, that hungry feeling that never goes away.

I can still see Deb with her green cat eyes and her angles and edges and I can still hear her kids laughing and calling me names, happy I was finally leaving.

I rub my hand over the goose bumps on my arm and look over at where Grandpa sits. He wears wrap-around dark glasses that go over his regular glasses and they make him look like a superhero. While he drives out of the bus station, he asks about the bus ride, did I meet anyone, if I ate. I tell him the bus ride was boring, no one sat next to me, and I ate a whole roll of hard cherry candies I bought when we stopped in Fresno.

Grandpa laughs when I say that about the hard cherry candies and it's nice to make him laugh. He drives under this big arch that says reno in big letters and under reads the biggest little city in the world. Grandpa stops at a red light and then looks over at me again, a funny tilt to his head.

"I'm just trying to remember the last time I saw you," he says. "Was it '71?"

In the reflection of his wrap-around shades, I can see myself shrug my shoulders.

"It couldn't have been that long ago," he says, rubbing his hand over his face and then pinching his wide nose. "Maybe '73?"

"I don't know," I say, tucking a bit of hair behind my ear.

"Hmm," he says, both hands on the steering wheel, lower lip pushed out, face set to thinking.

This is something grown-ups do, using the years to remember, but I don't think about time that way.

Time is the last big thing that happened, how it was L.A. this morning, one-way ticket and twenty bucks in my hand, good luck and good-bye.

"No, no," Grandpa says, "I think it was '74."

How I rode from L.A. to Fresno without anyone sitting in the seat next to me. In Fresno, I got off the bus, looked over the desert, and thought I could just walk down the road and disappear into that empty wavy space of heat on asphalt.

" '72?" Grandpa says, talking to the windshield.

How I got on the bus instead, hard cherry candies in my hand, nineteen dollars and some change in my back pocket.

"It had to be '72," Grandpa says. "The year your dad married Deb."

I kick my foot up and down on the floor mat.


"The last time I saw you," Grandpa says. "1972, the house in Fountain Valley."

The light changes from red to green and Grandpa makes a left onto the freeway.

"That's it," Grandpa says, "I'm sure of it."

The only sound is the fan blowing cold air and out the window, Reno slips by at sixty miles an hour, sagebrush and blue sky. The air in the car is cold and I squeeze my arms around myself.

Grandpa's seat is adjusted so he sits straight up and close to the steering wheel, those funny glasses on his face. He looks down my way, smile on his face, and I see myself bite my lip.

"Something on your mind?" he says.

"I was just wonder... --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From AudioFile

"I was 14 when I was murdered . . . ." That's the opening and also the astonishing conceit of this first novel. It's narrated from heaven. Tricked, raped, and knifed to death, Susie Salmon was the sort of innocent who had just learned that "gloves meant you were an adult and mittens meant you weren't." The book was raved about in advance by Jonathan Franzen and Anna Quindlen, and so its success seems guaranteed. This is a dream, of course, a wish fulfillment, but this is a dream with grit. Alyssa Bresnahan brings the corpse to passionate life, her voice by turns ecstatic and heavy with tears. Susie dies still thinking of first kisses. When the novel closes, she's a woman fulfilled and has learned to "hold the world without me in it." B.H.C. © AudioFile 2002, Portland, Maine-- Copyright © AudioFile, Portland, Maine --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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