The Lovely Bones (Review)

June 22, 2010

Book cover for "The Lovely Bones" by Alice Sebold.Title: The Lovely Bones

Author: Alice Sebold

Publication Year: 2002

Pages: 368

Genre: Fiction

Source: Audiobook borrowed from the Toronto Public Library system (narrated by Alyssa Bresnahan)

From the cover:

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.

I’ve heard so much about this book, for so long, that I can’t believe it took me this long to get around to reading it.

The Lovely Bones is one of those books that gets really hyped up and actually deserves it.

The entire story is narrated from the point of view of Susie, looking down on her family and friends from “her” heaven after her death. She can tell what people are thinking, saying, and doing, but cannot really communicate with them in a way that they can understand. For the majority of the novel, we watch her family cope – or fail to cope – with her brutal murder; although her body is never found, the police eventually figure out that she has definitely been killed, and they cannot figure out who the killer is. Susie knows, though, and so we know, and we join her in watching her family and friends interact with each other, other people, and even the murderer himself. It made for quite an intense read!

I loved that the story was told through Susie’s eyes, particularly the way that Sebold depicted Susie’s changing attitudes and desires throughout the novel. She was always believable, even when the events or places she talked about didn’t seem like they could be. And Susie was such a sympathetic character that you hoped for the best, even though you already knew the worst had happened. She even made me hope that other characters in the story would turn out okay, even when they did things that made me angry or disappointed. There was no real “happy ending” to The Lovely Bones, but it was still a great book.

Another teacher at my school had told me that she never finished this book, that she had to put it down because it was too depressing. There were a couple points in the story where I could definitely understand where she was coming from: it seems, at times, that bad things just keep on piling up. After sticking through it, though, it was more the way that the story was told, Susie’s point of view, that made it interesting enough and made you see the goodness in other characters and in the novel as a whole.

The narrator for this particular recording really helped me to understand the story and to put myself into Susie’s shoes. I’m not sure if I would have liked this book as much on paper, to be completely honest. The woman reading the book was spot on in her inflection and even in making herself sound as though she could have been the teenage Susie. I was drawn in right from the beginning, and managed to finish The Lovely Bones in less than three days, even with exams at school, baseball at night, and many other things to do. I didn’t want to put it down – I found myself looking for reasons to put my earphones back in and keep listening.

If you haven’t read The Lovely Bones before, but have heard that you should … do it. Do it now.

Rating:

8 Comments

  • Jen - Devourer of Books June 22, 2010 at 10:19 pm

    A narrator who can draw you in and make you empathize with the characters is such a gift, isn’t it?

    • Carina June 22, 2010 at 11:44 pm

      Indeed! I’m not sure that I would have liked this one quite as much if it had been “just” the words on the page.

  • Jennifer Vincent June 22, 2010 at 10:28 pm

    I’m the same as you, I’ve heard so much about it but I’ve never picked it up. I’m not sure I can handle the emotional-ness of the story right now (being 9 months pregnant…). I’m keeping it on my list…I’ll get to it someday!!!!

    • Carina June 22, 2010 at 11:43 pm

      Yeah … it’s definitely a rather emotional read!

  • Emily's Reading Room June 22, 2010 at 10:42 pm

    Huh… I HATED this book. With the passion of a thousand burning suns.

    I guess I felt like the afterlife should be something more wonderful and great. Not where we sit around observing things.

    Also, I really didn’t like Susie. Or anyone in the story really.

    But, to each their own, right?

    • Carina June 22, 2010 at 11:43 pm

      That’s alright, we can definitely agree to disagree on this one! My friend at work hated it, too, but I turned out to like it.

      I kind of agree with you about the afterlife thing, though. It always seemed like the other people in heaven were hanging out or playing or whatever, and she was just watching and staying with her family and friends.

  • Nico June 22, 2010 at 11:17 pm

    I loved when I read it. 🙂

  • zibilee June 23, 2010 at 12:20 pm

    I read this one a long time ago, and had mixed feelings for it. Sebold did a lot of things really well in this book, but I do remember that the scene towards the end with two of Susie’s friends getting together was just unbelievable for me, and ruined some of the tension in the story. I did end up thinking it was a great read, I just really wanted to excise that little scene. Have you seen the movie? It was really very creepy and scary. The man who played the murderer was just chilling.

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