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3.8 out of 5 stars
The Lovely Bones
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
on November 1, 2006
I would never have read this if it weren't for my bookclub. Having avoided it since it came out, I had very low expectations and so was surprised to be engrossed in the story - untill, about half-way through, it seemed to lose the plot and meandered around aimlessly, getting repetitive as it tried to wring emotion out of its characters, and me.

Susie Salmon is dead. She begins her story by describing how she is murdered, and her family's reaction. From her place in heaven, she can watch anyone she wants to, but apart from "touching" Ruth, a fellow 14-year-old student at her school, on her way out, she can't make her presence felt. Ruth becomes a little obsessed with Susie, and starts to see and feel dead people, keeping a record of them in her diary. Susie's mum uses her daughter's death as a trigger to leave her family and try to recapture her youth. She is constantly described as a woman who never wanted to be a mother. Susie's dad takes her death particularly bad, and focuses on his two other children, Lindsey and Buckley.

Susie watches from heaven as her family grows older, watches as Lindsey goes from first kiss to accepting a marriage proposal, watches her murderer, Mr Harvey, a serial killer who is [spoiler alert!] never caught, and, at the end of the book, possesses Ruth's body so she can lose her viginity to the only boy she ever kissed.

The Lovely Bones is fairly ambitious, and although it manages to keep from slipping into sentimental indulgence, it also lacks drive, and misses many opportunities to really delve into some interesting and important issues. Some devices were a bit cheesy, and seemed like avoidance. I guess I, like most people, would have been more satisfied if Mr Harvey had been caught, but that's not necessarily realistic either. The main reason why I struggled to finish it and why I give it only 3 stars is that the second half has nowhere to go, it loses its immediacy as the years go by and people start moving on, letting go of Susie, whose body was never found either. The characters started to annoy me - I wanted to be sympathetic, even of the mother, who, in a way, has the hardest time of all, but they began to get cliched.

That said, there are some nice descriptions, Susie's voice is apt, there's a great sense of time (she's killed in the 70s) without being too obvious, and even if you only read the first half, it's well written and gripping before it becomes tedious.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
I loved this book in the beginning! It seemed promising and authentic. It was written from a unique perspective. A girl who was murdered watches from heaven as her family, friends, law officials, and murderer all deal with the tragedy and move on with their lives.
I found the heaven that she was in to be a bit uninspired and surprisingly secular. A little too secular if you ask me. It was almost as if the author was trying desperately not to offend anyone who might read it. There is no mention of God anywhere in the book. Which makes the author's presumption of after-life slightly curious and almost naive. However, heaven was not the main focus as she mostly watched the activity on earth. This much was very heart warming and real.
Then all of the sudden there is this entirely incompatible scene where susie "drops down to earth" and takes over another girl's body. HUH? This was highly inconsistant with the rest of the story. And THEN when she has taken over this girl's body, you would think that she would use that time to show people where to find her killer, or at least her remains so that she might help to prevent other young girls from being killed or to bring closure to her family. Instead she takes this opportunity to have sex?? HUH? Not to mention that when she died she was a young teenage girl who had just been brutaly raped. AHHH!
I wanted so much for the book to end with as much genuine fervency as the beginning had. But all in all the ending was quite peculiar and frustrating. I am glad I read it however and I will look for future books by this author.
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on July 9, 2004
So many people recommended this book to me, I finally gave in and read it, even though I was slightly repelled to read about the brutal rape and murder of a 14-year old girl.
After reading it, I'm puzzled why this book became a runaway bestseller. Does it have something to do with our collective anxiety about our children?
The book wasn't terrible, but it wasn't something I'd go out of my way to recommend. I agree with the reviewer who said that the dad was the only "real" character (although the creepy George Harvey was pretty well drawn).
Most of the other characters were pretty one-dimensional. The mom was right out of other popular books -- the intellectual woman who is stifled by the domestic role society has imposed on her(ie--suicidal mom in "The Hours"). And the detective who falls in love with the mom was reminiscent of the policeman who falls for the woman in "House of Sand and Fog." Do these writers all go to the same workshops?
Other than the details of the murder and the murderer, I found most of the book slightly dull.
Speaking of dull, I sure hope if I go to heaven I don't have to spend all my time watching everyone back on earth!!
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I loved this book in the beginning! It seemed promising and authentic. It was written from a unique perspective also. A girl who was murdered watches from heaven as her family, friends, law officials, and murderer all deal with the tragedy and move on with their lives.
The heaven that she was in I found to be a bit uninspired and surprisingly secular. A little too secular if you ask me. It was almost as if the author was trying desperately not to offend anyone who might read it. There is no mention of God anywhere in the book. Which makes the author's presumption of after-life slightly curious and almost naive.
Then all of the sudden there is this entirely incompatible scene where susie "drops down to earth" and takes over another girl's body. HUH? This was highly inconsistant with the rest of the story. And THEN when she has taken over this girl's body, you would think that she would use that time to show people where to find her killer, or at least her remains so that she might help to prevent other young girls from being killed or to bring closure to her family. Instead she takes this opportunity to have sex?? HUH? Not to mention that when she died she was a young teenage girl who had just been brutaly raped. AHHH!
I wanted so much for the book to end with as much genuine fervency as the beginning had. But all in all the ending was quite peculiar and frustrating. I am glad I read it however and I will look for future books by this author.
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on June 28, 2004
I had high expectations for Lovely Bones. In concept, it was curious and interesting - a story told from a dead girls' perspective. A victim's story that goes beyond the grieving cycles and imagines a sort of after-life for the teenage Susie Salmon.
For the most part, Lovely Bones delivered. A contrived tale - how can a story from a dead girl not be? But written with warmth and good humour. From her panoptic position in a heaven that looks a little like her school, she watches her family cope with her death and her siblings and friends grow up.
Sometimes, the plot strays into cliches: fractured marriage; catalystic changes for the parents; sister's determination to track down the killer; naming of the child after the dead girl. But the innovative point of telling rescues it from a turgid melodrama that the plot could otherwise be.
Oddly, for a fairly naturalist piece of writing, the ending descends into a bizarre and incongruous scene of super-magical realism. It's a strange choice of ending, because it undermines the intimacy and realism of the novel. Once she becomes supernatural, Suzie's narrative voice no longer seem real or genuine. It seems cheap to trade a consistent tone and the quality of the writing for a "happy" ending that is intensely contrived. Sebold seems keen to offer her protagonist some sort of closure, but is unable to find such closure in more grounded realities. She resorts to ludicruous magical-realism, a la "Ghost" (Demi Moore & Patrick Swayze), spoiling a sensitive and well-crafted and imaginative story.
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Maybe if I wasn't a reader educated about rhetorical patterns, I would have enjoyed the novel more. So many people have recommended the book to me, and so I picked it up as part of my summer reading pile.
I read the reviews on the book and one person mentioned that it was in the voice of a fourteen year old. I thought to myself, awesome, this will be interesting, as I just completed a creative writing class, and we learned how it is important to maintain age and character in a first-person voice.
The writing in 'The Lovely Bones' is indeed beautiful, however, I cannot believe that the narrator is supposed to be an eighth grader. A fourteen-year-old's vernacular is not as developed as an adult. It would be more believable if the narrator was an adult instead. Also, even though Susie is in heaven and cannot do anything about what is going on on Earth, she can show some sort of emotion or reaction to the gravity of her loved one's problems. I almost feel like the first-person narration is a lazy way of covering up a writing faux-pas in which jumping from mind to mind is forbidden.
The complexity of the story was impressive though. But like I already mentioned, there were elements in the voice that could have been tightened up to make it much more rhetorically savvy.
Finally, the ending did not impress me.
I read the book rather fast, because I was intrigued by the uniqueness of the story, but after a while, I just wanted it to be over. It was a good book, but read it when you really have the time.
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on June 7, 2004
When a patient dies, the family always ask when can they see the body. This is all about closure and saying the last farewell. Sebold's Lovely Bones builds a good climax after Suzie Salmon's rape and murder; her family's attempt with coping afterwards; her friends' lives being fulfilled as she watches from her Heaven. I can accept that not all murders are solved and that murderers keep on reoffending for years. However, I was very disappointed at the body swapping moment where Suzie merely came back to Earth through her schoolmate Ruth's body to only have a moment of physical contact with a boy she had a crush on. If I had the chance to come back from Heaven, even if only for a brief moment, I would go to my family who has been suffering, torn apart and who had to live with no physical evidence to support their daughter's murder, for the rest of their lives. I would attempt at any gesture or signal to give them some sort of closure and to say farewell and let them know that I am watching them everyday. Sebold's ending was just too sweet, that babies will grow up, flowers will bloom, fathers' broken hearts will mend even if they have to live out their last days not knowing how their daughter was murdered and where her body lies.
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What a disappointment this novel turned out to be. It has a great start, nothing less than compulsive reading. It takes one to places with a fresh originality and a kind of innocence that the reader puts down to the writer's enormous creativity and technique. But then suspicion sets in with those sentences that where not immediately clear and had to be reread for their esoteric content as they became suspiciously frequent. Could it be that this was not purposely ambiguous Zen type thinking but rather a reflection of an immature style of writing?
I initially also gave credit to the finally drawn characters but came to the conclusion as the book continued that they were so lightly colored as to be invisible. And then some half way through these characters that never come alive just take over in a messy not going anywhere believable way. The one character, Mr. Harvey, who holds interest and should have reaped his justifiable comeuppance from the author - well I read the book to the bitter end and for the life of me, just a few days later, I can't remember what happened to him at all.
Something went badly wrong with this book. Not only does the writer kill off her protagonist but she also murders her book with over-kill as she shamelessly milks her story for every last drop of emotion. To top it all, the writer asks the reader to suspend belief to the degree that we can accept that her murdered protagonist, who relates the tale, has decided to pop down to Earth from her heavenly abode for a quickie with a boy friend who once kissed her.
The first half of Ms. Alice Sebold's novel deserves a 5 star rating for originality and for its infectious innocence and the book is worth reading just for this; however, the second half can go safely be ignored. Where were all those people, editors etc. who should have been guiding the author? Such a pity, as this story had enormous potential as an intelligent, moving and captivating read.
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on June 1, 2004
The Lovely Bones is a beautifully written novel about Susie Salmon, a 14-year old girl who has to watch from heaven as her family and friends cope with her death after she is brutally raped and murdered. Susie narrates the story and tells how she uses her spiritual presence on earth to help lead to the murderer and cause of her disappearance. Often times she gets frustrated since she has to watch a world in which she can no longer live in. Heaven was perfect, but watching where she wished she could be-which was most of the time-was not. For her, heaven seemed to be on earth with the people and things she loved. You pick up very easily that she felt this way through the stories she tells of her past, and the way she looks at them with regret. The mesmerizing and almost haunting first few chapters keep you wanting to read more. You find yourself asking many questions about the book in which you keep reading in order to get answered. But as soon as these questions fade away in your mind, there seems to be no point in continuing the reading. This, along with many other problems with the book, made me almost dislike reading it, despite the fact that I was indulged in the beginning of the book.
Lovely Bones was about 100 pages too long. I'm not just saying this because i dislike reading long books, but because there was no point in the novel continuing on as long as it did. It was like watching Lord of the Rings, anxiously waiting for it to end, knowing that the plot can only go downhill after a certain point. Another problem was that often times Susie said how different characters felt and what they were thinking throughout the book. This would make sense if it was a book written in third person, but how would Susie be able to tell? She doesn't have a sixth sense. Another problem with Susie is that her writing sounds like a well-educated 35-year-old adult, which makes sense since that's what the person who actually wrote it is. But there were too many occasions when I thought that there is no way, that any 14 year old person would be able to write this, not even Diego Nunez. She also switches from idea to idea way too frequently, and then goes back to the previous one once more. I, along with many others I'm sure found this extremely confusing at times. Although there were many problems with the book, I still give Alice Sebold plenty of credit. She's an incredible writer, and has skill that many people could never imagine having. Her ability to write things that can make you laugh and cry seems to come so easily for her. So I recommend that everyone read this book, even with my dislike for it, just to experience Alice Sebold's writing.
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on June 1, 2004
I am not a person who normally reads the raving bestsellers, mostly because I have been disappointed in the past when I do read them. "The Lovely Bones" was described to be out of the ordinary and received such outlandish praise that I jumped aboard the fan wagon.
Alice Sebold is a "lovely" writer and worth reading, her subject matter is unfortunately real and she approaches "The Lovely Bones" from an interesting point of view....that of a girl recently raped and murdered and telling her saga from heaven. Thankfully this novel is not another slapped together version of something that gets written about over and over again. This novel broke through! However I do feel it was rather tame and toned down to meet the masses as most "bestsellers" are.
"The Lovely Bones" is an easy read despite the horrible character delimma. It is gripping and well written but not unforgettable. I almost wish this novel had been allowed to stand on its own and not become an over-edited version of itself. But then maybe this subject matter needs to be presented to wider audiences and discussed in detail so that the impact of child kidnap and molestation becomes a "bestseller" as a cause.
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