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on April 18, 2004
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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I had come across "The Lovely Bones" in my local Borders bookstore a few years ago. I started reading it back then, and I really liked what I read. It's a story of a young girl who is raped and killed by a sexual predator/ serial killer, as told from the dead girl's perspective. This was a very unusual and interesting premise, with a lot of potential for a very original and imaginative novel. At the time I did not continue reading the book, but when the movie based on it came out earlier this year I thought that maybe the time had come to read it in its entirety. And this has been one of the greatest disappointments as a reader that I've ever had.

The supernatural premise of viewing earthly events from a dead girl's perspective is not really used all that much in the book, except for one brief chapter well towards the end. Even then, the whole incident is completely superfluous to the overall narrative, and it has no discernable effect on the rest of the book. It seems that the choice of the point of view for this book had more to do with the kind of narrative device that the author wanted to employ, rather than with the plot development, only to change her mind at almost the last moment, and then do it haphazardly and then backtrack on her decision. However, even as a pure narrative device this ploy has problems that show throughout the book. Unlike a perfect omniscient narrator, a dead girl is actually pretty limited in her perspective, not least because she can only observe the outward appearances of other protagonists. She does make surmises on people's inner states of mind, but those are usually very restrained and not very convincing.

The book fails as a murder-mystery thriller as well. It's not so much that know from the very beginning what happened and who did what, but as the story progresses we get less and less of an impression that most of the relevant characters are truly trying to solve a criminal case. They all make some half-hearted and intermittent steps in trying to solve this murder, but we need to be constantly reminded by the narrator that they do in fact really want to solve the case.

Finally, and most disappointingly, the book fails as a coming-to-terms-with-tragedy novel. As previously mentioned, the point of view of the narrative is actually pretty limiting, and we don't really have the full access to the inner thoughts and feeling of various protagonists. We have to be constantly told about what they are going through, which doesn't make for a very satisfying reading experience. Furthermore, most of the characters (even those with more exotic backgrounds) are actually rather flat and uninteresting. Almost every little girl in the story is a more serious embodiment of Lisa Simpson. The reader doesn't feel much of the conviction in their actions and thoughts.

I stuck with this book through the very end because I was hoping that maybe, just maybe, a surprising and revelatory ending would make all the reading effort worth it. Unfortunately, that too was a big disappointment. The end left me hanging, and if I had cared more for any of the characters in the book I would have been really frustrated. As it is, I am just left to lament all the time I had wasted on reading this rather unremarkable book. The style of writing is pretty good, something that was obviously tuned in fiction workshops, but in the end not nearly so good to justify wasting so much time on this novel.
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on April 23, 2004
I also learned of this book second-hand. The referral came from an English lady who indicated that the book was taking her country by storm. I read quite a bit, mostly bestsellers, but found this novel to be somewhat different from the mainstream. The concept of meeting the narrator, Susie, the 14 year old girl already dead and in heaven was unusual, to say the least. In a nutshell, I found the story to be too contrived. The characters were not at all believable. Susie's concept of heaven, and it being whatever we want it to be was cute, and offered the only bright spot in the book. After that, with the introduction of Susie's family, the story starts to go downhill. Like many other reviewers, I found Susie's mom to be the least likeable. The fact that after enjoying a "quickie" with the lead detective on her daughter's case, she fled from one coast to the other, abandoning her remaining daughter and 3 year old son, because she couldn't handle the death of her older daughter was totally incomprehensible. Susie's father's obsession with capturing the person he felt to be responsible for Susie's murder is told in a manner which seems, at best, uneven and clumsy. Susie's alcoholic grandmother (who moves in and comes to the family's rescue), the daughter Leslie, a very mature 13 who finds solace in her boyfriend's bed, and the quirky friend Ruth, helped add improbability to the story. The fact that the story stretches over eight years is also tiresome. In the end, all the loose ends being tied up, even the unlikely death of Susie's murderer, was pathetic. I read the book reviews, after having read the book, to see if I had missed something in my reading of it, seeing as how so many people were singing its praises. I personally think that people so taken by the novel should perhaps read "The Emperor's New Clothes" as a sequel.
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on December 29, 2003
Though the concept of "heaven" in this book was interesting and presented in an unsual manner, the rest of the book left me uncertain about the reason for writing it in the first place. A young girl is brutally murdered by a neighbour and goes to heaven where she watches life go on for the people she loves and the man who murdered her.
Some of the details could have been edited out of the book, e.g. the description of the airport where the girl's mother arrives to see her husband who had a heart attack. She left the family 8 years earlier shortly after the death of her daughter. This kind of useless details seemed to me to be "filler" as it offered no insight into the characters of the book. There seemed to be a lot of fillers in the book.
The part where the murdered girl enters the body of her living friend in order to be able to consumate a relationship she had with a young boy prior to her death was out of sync with the rest of the plot and the concept of the separateness of the two worlds.
The character of the dead girl's grandmother is well developed in the book. She had a strong influence on the family and goes to live with them after the dead girl's grief stricken mother leaves the family. Yet when this character dies the author gives no details as to how, what, where and when. This seems like a loose end that needed some binding to the story.
To be fair, the writer's description of the way the various members of the victim's family grieve and the impact of sudden death on the community was true to real life experience. The fact that most murders are never brought to justice nor are the missing victims likely to be found compounds the reality of the world we live in these days. The book just did not deliver the punch it needed for me to recommend it to prospective readers.
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on September 24, 2009
I thought it would be a great story about a young girls view from heaven. I hated how the story began with a girl girl being raped and killed, put me off right away... the disappointment just excelled from there. Didn't even bother to finish it... .....the movie doesn't look bad though! (surprisingly!)
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on July 5, 2004
This book was recommended to me by a friend who thought it was a great work and who had even waited in a long line to have it signed by the author. I eagerly began to read the book and although the beginning seemed like it would lead me to an emotional journey, I was thoroughly disappointed. In fact, I had to force myself to finish it. I collect books, but once I finished this one, I gave it to Goodwill. If I could have gotten my money back, I would have demanded it. First of all, the author missed a great opportunity to delve into the emotional chaos that anyone would naturally suffer after learning that their daughter/sister/friend was murdered by an unknown assailant. This book is so superficial when describing emotions that the reader forgets the reason for the emotions in the first place (i.e., the murder of a loved one). I didn't care about any of the characters at any point in time throughout this book, including the protagonist. You'd think that after being murdered so brutally, the protagonist would display anger, resentment, hate, sadness, etc. But not under Sebold's direction. There was no depth to any of the characters in this book. For example, when the father learns that his youngest daughter broke into the house of the man suspected of murdering his other daughter and almost gets caught, the father's reaction was ridiculously non-chalant. And the ending! It was as though the author got tired of even her own story and decided to finish it quickly with the first idea that came to mind. She should have thought the ending through a little longer. Don't waste your time or money with this "novel."
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on June 8, 2004
I bought this book after hearing about its rave reviews. Also, the plot and its premise seemed highly interesting. I found the first chapters to be very engaging, if disturbing. I'm not a parent, but I imagine the opening chapter would be nearly unbearable for a parent to read. This book gets off to a good start, but loses its momentum to dullness. The hubbub after Susie Salmon's murder soon fades as everyone else lives their everyday lives and grows up. Also, the author writes very long-winded scenes that make the book difficult to read and keep up with. I got some general plot basics from what skimming I did. The character of her mother seemed cold and unbelievable. Also, what would possess a family to name their little boy Buckley, especially with the goofy last name of Salmon? (Believable names make a novel much more readable.)
Do you know many people who stayed with the boyfriend or girlfriend they've had since early adolescence? That's extremely rare and unlikely, yet it happens in this book. And, like many other reviewers, I was very bothered by the late scene in which Susie enters a young woman named Ruth's body, then, instead of telling important people who killed her, what happened and where her body is, as many of us would have done after helplessly watching our families struggle with these questions for many years, she has sex with the guy who had a crush on her in junior high. (If the last sex you had was getting brutally raped as a young girl, would you suddenly be filled with adult desire?) It was aggravating to read that part, for after the sex she leaves again, not answering those basic questions.
Some other unbelievable events happened in the book, but putting them here would spoil some of the plot.
This book was so painfully boring that I tried my hardest to read it but I ended up skimming over much of it. Now, a family member has started reading it, and she has the exact same complaints: it's very unreadable and monotonous. Susie goes on and on about her family's everyday activities as she watches from heaven, and the murder case proceeds slowly. This book lacks tension, and I actually felt bad for not liking it, but I'm realizing I'm not the only one.
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on June 7, 2004
I really wanted to like 'The Lovely Bones', but I honestly don't know how this book managed to get the rave reviews that it did. I was very disappointed.
The concept is interesting, but hardly groundbreaking: Murdered girl's spirit watches as her family slowly comes to terms with her death, and people hunt for her killer. Hmm - haven't we seen this plot before, in the film 'Ghost'? I also seem to remember reading Narinder Dhami's 'Angel Face' some years back, which dealt with a similar theme. (I thoroughly recommend 'Angel Face', by the way. It's for young adults, but it's an excellent read.)
Nevertheless, the opening chapters of 'The Lovely Bones' are promising. The initial portrayal of a family trying to assimilate the news that their daughter has been killed is very believable, as are the efforts on the part of the murderer to disguise his tracks. The actions of the police officers are also believably frustrating, as they come painstakingly close to solving the mystery - only to be misled once again. I also liked the depiction of the small town which formed the backdrop for the 'earth' part of the story. Sebold really demonstrated the way in which an entire town can be rocked by the death of one child. The reports of the murders of the ten-year-old Soham school-girls were still fresh in my mind as I read this book, adding extra poignancy to the text.
So, when does it go wrong? Well, for starters, I was never really satisfied by the depiction of heaven. Unfortunately, heaven is a theological construct and to place it in a less-religious context raises awkward questions. Sebold never explains what heaven is for, whom it is for, why the characters do what they do, etc. If this was a comedic novel (as Angel Face is), none of this would matter. However, because the book is serious, the questions really should be addressed properly. Instead, the reader is delivered the childish notion of heaven as being a place which is accessible to almost everyone; a place where wishes come true. It's all right, but the concept itself could have been explored more.
Perhaps more importantly, about halfway through the book the narrative begins to lose its way. The characters become less and less credible. The plot becomes far-fetched to the point of being ridiculous. A great writer can invite their reader to take great leaps of imagination and can make it seem as though nothing is out of the ordinary. Sebold can do this to a certain extent, but details let the writing down.
Would a father, for example, truly encourage his second daughter to break into the house of the man whom he suspects of murdering his first daughter? Would it not go against every paternal instinct in his body? And although I understand that 90% of parents split up after the murder of a child, I cannot believe that Susie's mother would have an affair with the detective assigned to the case. Rather, I cannot believe that the detective would have an affair with Susie's mother. Even small-town officers, I am sure, are trained to cope with the emotions of a distraught parent. It's just not credible. Similarly, the character of Ruth also rings hollow. Another reviewer on here notes that she turns into a Sixth-Sense-style, 'I-See-Dead-People' kind of figure, and I have to say that I agree with this analysis. A lot of work needs to be taken to flesh out that sort of character, and I'm not sure that enough was.
My biggest single problem with the plot, however, was Susie's leap into Ruth's body. First of all, it was a borrowing from numerous other stories including 'Ghost', and even the 'Point Horror' novels. Secondly, there was nothing in the narrative which led up to the event. In other words it was a poorly-executed cliché, seemingly contrived in order to allow Susie to have sex. Which leads me to: Susie's Sex Scene. Now, let's just think about this for a minute.
Susie died in the 1970s at the age of 14. It is now eight years later, but ultimately she hasn't aged. *She is still 14*. By the time she dies she has shared a single kiss with Ray, and her one sexual encounter has been the brutal rape she endured before her murder. This is her first experience back in a human body, and it's also her first time in a woman's body, rather than the girl's body she is used to. Nor is she is expecting the transition from the spiritual to the physical world. On top of all this, the body she enters isn't even her own. Meanwhile, Ray, hanging out with his friend Ruth, suddenly discovers that Ruth is actually his long-dead friend Susie, who's popped down from heaven to say hello. They say hello...and then immediately proceed to have sex, which is perfect and mindblowing; complete with all the adult emotions of a perfectly-balanced, well-adjusted couple. At no point does Ray ask Susie about her murderer, and Susie makes no attempt to reveal the truth about her death. It is here that the novel loses its last shred of credibility.
The final chapter redeems the book to a certain extent. Haunting passages draw the novel to a close, and Sebold ties up the loose ends quite nicely. Mr. Harvey is also taken care of, at last!
It's such a shame that this novel falls apart so badly in the middle (for this reader, at least). The opening chapters had me hooked, but unfortunately they could not sustain the entire book. Disappointing.
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on May 11, 2004
This story takes place in mid 70's to about the mid 80's in what seems to be a small suburban area. The main character was Susie Salmon. Susie was smart and did not seem to have to many friends. Susie had her mother, father, a brother named Buckley, a sister named Lindsey, and a dog.
She was murdered and raped early in the beginning of the story. It seems bad for me to say this but that was the only interesting part of the story. After Susie's death she spent about ten years watching her family to see how they have coped with her death.
Every one in the family had their own issues to deal with, but the book still seemed dry, as though it were missing something. I couldn't stay interested. The mother was never there, Mr. Harvey's character could have been expanded more. After He killed Susie he ran away after being accused. I wanted more then any thing to see Mr. Harvey and Mr. Salmon, one on one.
The book talked about a lot of things that seemed to have no relevance to the story, such as Ruth living in the city. There were about 4 chapters it seemed like dedicated to Ruth and her job as a waitress that seemed pointless. Another thing that could have gone was Ray's mom's character. All she did was give you a false idea that maybe Mr. Salmon might get pay back against Mr. Harvey, and smoke smelly cigarettes.
This book could have been better if there was more confrontation and less constant talk. There seemed to be no reason to want to reach the end of the book accept to see how Mr Harvey will end up. There was one attempt of something interesting towards the end of the book and that was when ruth basically became possesed, to bad that I could not understand what was going on because it was written so bad with no explanation on why or how the possesion of Ruth occured. I would not suggest this book to anyone Hence the title The Boring Bones.
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on May 11, 2004
Set in the 70's, this is the story about a young girls rap and murder. Suzie Salmon, which is the murder victims name, watches from a temporary heaven, while her family tries to deal with her death and the out comes are. Or what the future has to come for her family, friends and murder.
Mr. Salmon, Suzie's father, has a very difficult time dealing with his oldest daughters death. Mrs. Salmon, Suzie's mother, is dealing with it better than her husband but cannot deal with the fact that he cannot get over her death and ends up leaving him. Lindsay, is Suzie's younger sister, she is sad because of her sisters death but cannot stand the fact that every time she walks down the halls at school she hears the whispers, " that's the dead girls sister." Ray is Suzie's true love, Suzie is madly in love with him and he returns the feelings. He was very heart broken to learn of her death so he confides in Ruth. Then there is Ruth was a girl who knew of Suzie but didn't really talk to her but after Suzie's death was all most obsessed with her death and continued to write about her and her death in her journals.
Through out the book, there wasn't anything to keep my attention or make me want to keep reading. I felt that the events in the book didn't flow into each other. One part that didn't seem to flow to me when Suzie's spirit took over Ruth's body and she made love to Ray, it didn't really explain how or why that happened to her. I do like the topic of the book. It is a very unique topic and I wondered how she, Alice Seabold, inspired her to write a story about that. Anyone who likes mystery should enjoy this book.
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