on March 9, 2006
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.
on March 1, 2008
Susie Salmon is a 14-year-old dead girl looks down from heaven and tells us about her murder and her observations about her family. She observes her family struggle to come to terms and cope with her death. We see her younger sister grow into a woman and her father trying to bring Susie's killer to justice. We also learn about what her own heaven looks like and what it is like to be dead from her perspective.
Sounds a bit weird, right? That's what I thought years ago when I picked up this book. I read about 15 pages and thought, "this is stupid, how can a dead person narrate a book. Then I ran across the audio book version a couple weeks ago. I thought to myself, "why not give it another more fair try and try to see why other readers like it so much." Boy, am I glad I did. Once I got past the description of the murder, I really enjoyed this book. It's not as depressing as one would think. It was suspenseful, heartwarming, and humorous.
The performer on the audio version is Alyssa Bresnahan. She is excellent and really enhances the novel.
Susie Salmon captured my heart. I highly recommend this book and can hardly wait to see what Alice Sebold writes next!
on November 15, 2004
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 back.....so 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.
on November 26, 2003
"The Lovely Bones" is as bold a book as I've ever read in my adult life and then some. Its chilling subject matter, audacious use of first person narrative, and provocative spirituality are just a few of the things you can look forward to in Alice Sebold's ballsy debut novel, with a little humor thrown in for good measure. I must warn you though, for all the bragging rights this book has earned, if you're looking for a clear resolution, "The Lovely Bones" is not the book for you.
Sebold's story teller, Susie Salmon ("pronounced Salmon, like the fish" as we are so often reminded) wields a compelling and poignant narrative that keeps the reader fascinated from start to finish. Our heroine is brutally raped and murdered at the young age of 14 and has already taken her place in "her heaven" when the story begins. However, she is hardly absent from the world as we soon learn she watches and even accompanies her family and friends on their journey through the grieving process and as they begin to move on with their lives.
Unfortunately, Susie's family do not take her death nearly as well as she does, and as a result, begin to fall apart quickly thereafter. Susie's father nearly has a mental breakdown, her mother has an adulterous fling with the investigator of Susie's death, and Susie's two remaining siblings (a younger sister, Lindsey, and brother, Buckley) struggle to live their lives in the shadow of their sister's death. Susie also leaves behind a fledgling romance with Ray Singh, her pseudo boyfriend, and an odd friendship with Ruth, who actually sees more of Susie after her death than she does when she's alive.
Susie's murderer Mr Harvey, we learn, is actually the perpetrator of several similar crimes and has been on the run for years. He is in fact a serial killer, but has yet to be convicted of any of his wrongdoings, including Susie's death. The reader knows that Harvey is the killer and Susie's father suspects as much, but unfortunately no justice is served; not in the legal sense at least.
In my opinion, this lack of resolution is one of two near-misses of perfection for "The Lovely Bones.". As previously mentioned, Susie's killer is never caught and her family never learns what really happened to her. In accordance with that, the other near-miss takes place in an odd moment when Susie switches places with Ruth and spends a few fleeting hours among the living. Instead of taking that opportunity to show Ray, her childhood flame, where her body is buried or spend her last time on earth with her family, she chooses to lose her virginity to Ray.
I found both these instances to be fairly disappointing. While I'm aware that Sebold is in no way obligated to provide a resolution, you really come to expect it and desire it, for that matter. You want the resolution for yourself all most as much as you do for Susie's friends, family, and for Susie herself. In that respect, you could easily become disenchanted with the novel. In fact, my first thought upon finishing the book was "Is that it?" Honestly, I expected more, but after taking into consideration the wonderful journey Sebold and her Susie took me on, I realized I was just thankful for the experience.
What "The Lovely Bones" lacks in resolution, it more than makes up for in poignant storytelling. Sebold uses crisp, yet detailed dialogue that captures your attention from start to finish. She has molded Susie into a brilliant storyteller and as she leads us down an intriguing and illuminating path, we become quickly entranced in Susie's world. Almost so much so, that you feel the need to separate yourself from the novel so that you can clearly distinguish fantasy and reality in your own mind.
Susie's ability to follow one character and then the next gives the reader a sense that there are actually many stories being told all at once. Sebold has the ability to intertwine them all in a way that you aren't confused by the different stories, but that actually serves to enhance the narrative. Also, as the story is told through the eyes of Susie, a 14 year old girl, the world is presented with a kind of innocence that remains even as her family and friends mature. It's refreshing in some ways and chilling in others to think that the horrors being describe in explicit detail by a young girl barely past adolescence.
Perhaps one of the most endearing concepts in the novel is Susie's own journey into Heaven. We learn that immediately after her death she enters into her own Heaven, which is a world filled with all the things she enjoyed most on Earth, or dreamed of experiencing in the future. The more time she spends in her Heaven, the more it evolves just as she does, mentally and emotionally as she can not do physically. Susie soon realized that she can not enter into the "real Heaven" until she first lets go of her attachments on Earth. It is this journey that is the central focus of the novel and it ultimately holds the story together.
Alice Sebold's riveting debut novel, "The Lovely Bones," is overall an expertly written, beautifully woven piece of literature. It is poignant and captivating from beginning to end and provides a heartwarming story set against the backdrop of a disgusting horror. Though it does not offer the kind of resolution some may be looking for, it does bring a different kind of storytelling to the table that has rarely been seen in the past. I would recommend this book to anyone looking for an intriguingly daring piece of fiction that will make you angry, sad, and happy all at the same time, while also making you appreciate the good things in your own life that most of us take for granted. "The Lovely Bones" gets an A in my book.
on July 18, 2004
In this thought-provoking, chilling memoir, Alice Sebold recounts the events of her rape and the aftermath of that tragedy. While strong enough to go through with the trial and conviction of her attacker, Sebold's emotional state was deeply affected for many years after. Her memoir follows the events that occurred after her rape and the things she attempted in order to escape her pain.
Sebold captures this period in her life with great intensity and literary skill. Not only does the reader become informed of the actual events of the rape and the events following it, but we get a look into Sebold's home life and her personality before the night that would change everything.
This story isn't just about a college girl's rape and her survival story. It's a story about her life: her family, her friends, her childhood. Sebold explains how when she was younger all she wanted was to be hugged by her parents, but she would settle for something as simple as a touch because she was offered nothing more (and sometimes not even that luxury). It's about growing up in a dysfunctional family and getting through it. It's about surviving not only bad experiences in life, but surviving and coping with continuing bad situations.
A great read - highly recommended to anyone.
on July 18, 2004
When 14 year-old Susie Salmon is raped and murdered by her neighbour, Mr. Harvey, everyone is affected by this loss. Her father Jack is determined to solve the case, her mother Abigail denies the fact that Susie is gone, her brother Buckley tries to understand the concept of death and her sister Lindsey hardens herself in order to move on. But what of Susie? In Heaven she is watching the reaction of her family and friends, the police trying to find the murderer, and Mr. Harvey covering up his crime.
This book was very realistic and Alice Sebold does a wonderful job in portraying the everyday life of those who must try to move on and accept the fact that a loved one is gone. I am not a very sentimental person, yet I have found myself shedding a few tears while reading some intense scenes in the book. Sebold's concept of Heaven is a refreshing one after having heard about angels, clouds and wings so many times before. The members of the family each have a different way of coping with this tragic loss, which is one reason why this book seemed so realistic.
However, there are two reasons why I gave this book four stars instead of five: the first reason is because Alice seems to be too random. She oftens jumps back and forth from the time after Susie was murdered to the time when Susie was little. At the beginning, this was confusing and I often found myself wondering what date Susie was referring to, but after a while I started to enjoy this randomness, and it gives the story more style and a more realistic feel: I felt as if I was actually in Susie's mind, looking back on the memories she shared with her family. Nevertheless, it is still confusing and takes some getting used to.
The other thing I didn't like about the book was the impact Susie sometimes had on people. Sebold describes how her father saw Susie's ghost and how Ruth sometimes felt Susie's present. I don't believe in ghosts, and therefore this made the book quite incredulous at times, which was a shame.
All in all though, I found The Lovely Bones to be a very good book and I recommend it to anyone who wants a fresh new insight on Heaven.
on July 10, 2004
Normally I am not interested in reading fiction. However, Sebold's "The Lovely Bones" had me hooked from the very first chapter. The author's perspective is unique and while the subject is death, the book is upbeat and enchanting.
Sebold has an uncanny ability to jump from gender to gender, age to age, and paint a picture of incredible detail that makes the reader believe the herone, 14-year-old deceased Susie Salmon, is indeed looking down from her prison/heaven and experiencing the pain, joy, and emotions each of her loved ones have endured since her murder.
The description of homicide detective Len Fenerman's feelings about "wounded women" on Page 272 is both compact and compassionate. "The wife in the bait-'n'-tackle shop had no bruises on her fact but cowered like a dog and spoke in apologetic whispers."
It is that kind of tightness of thought that could place Sebold in the same category as John Steinbeck and Pearl Buck as she continues to hone her craft.
on July 8, 2004
Let me start by saying this is a lovely story despite the fact that it deals partly with the rape and murder of a 14-year-old girl. The details of her death take up the first chapter, but it then goes on to describe the aftermath of this tragic occurrence on her family as well as going into the head of the killer himself which is her next-door neighbor. This comes about right in the beginning, it's not a whodunnit.
The book itself is not about the narrator (the dead girl's) murder and it's only partly about her afterlife. I have to say that her description of her afterlife was the worst part of the book and the characters she met up with were dull and obnoxious.
The main reason this gets four stars from me is because it is so beautifully written for the most part, though melodramatic at times, especially with the ridiculous spiritual encounter in the end that went too far.
SPOILER: I was also disappointed with the too convenient death of the killer and the way in which he died wreaked of unbelievable irony, not in a good way. END OF SPOILER.
Overall though, this was a very good book that I would recommend. Original? Kind of but I've seen similar set-ups before. Well-written? For the most part, yes. Touching? Yes.
This is about a family and the way in which each individual member attempts to move on after being touched by tragedy. The lovely bones refer to the restructuring of the family, the foundation. Alice Sebold even uses these words "lovely bones" in this context. The title also seems to have that connotation of death. But it just doesn't have an aesthetically pleasing sound. Maybe it's not supposed to but to me it just didn't work. Also the last line was awful.
on July 6, 2004
I agree with some reviewers who became a bit disenchanted when the main character of this novel, Susie, leaves heaven and lives in someone else's body on Earth for a few hours. However, this is a minor shift away from what I think is a gripping, unique, well thought out, well written tale. It has fascinating characters that grow and develop while remaining consistent enough over the years covered by the plot.
The premise of a murder victim viewing her familiy, friends and murderer from "her heaven" works amazingly well for me. This is a book about characters. The people, their relationships, and their transformation over time is the focus throughout. This is where Sebold's brilliance shines. In this context, it could be O.K. that Susie inhabits Ruth's body for awhile. Perhaps crossing over in both directions could happen..... But, I think that it is cool to think that both girls/women need to experience the other side.
I would like to have known more about Sebold's vision of heaven and what happens to the souls who inhabit it. What is the relationship between the two sides of existence? There were hints, but I stayed curious - not in a thoroughly thought provoking way.
The story is a bit gory in spots. It also has some cleverly developed suspense. I consider myself pretty sensitive to negativity in books, but I was more than O.K. with this one.
on July 4, 2004
Susie Salmon is 14, lives with her parents, brother and sister in a middle-class house, does fine in school and has just been kissed for the first time. Everything is fine, but then, out of the blue, she is murdered by a man who lives 2 houses away. He destroys the scene of the crime, hides part of her belongings and dumps het body in a sinkhole. And even though people suspect him of the murder, there is no actual proof.
The interesting viewpoint of the book is that we witness everything through the eyes of Susie, wo is in her heaven observing what is happening to her family and friends on earth. How each of them copes in his or her own way with her absence and their grief, how her family disintegrates and gets back together and how life goes on, even though it has changed for a lot of people.
I absolutely loved this way of looking at things: it gives the author endless opportunities to describe what is going on when a group of people loose a dear one. I was only disappointed by the rather unbelievable ending of the book, it seemed like the author did not know how to come up with a satisfying ending. A shame and therefore only 4 stars, but for the rest definitely a very enjoyable read.