The Lovely Bones
Sebold’s The Lovely Bones (ISBN 978-0-330-46661-5, Picador 2009)
begins with, “My name was Salmon, like the fish; first name Susie. I was 14
when I was murdered on December 6, 1973.” That is one very powerful
introduction to any thriller.
However, “Simple and beautiful” was one review, from a
publication called “List”. I wondered if we had read the same book. The
Lovely Bones was a book with so many deep and meaningful insights that it
shocked the system initially and made you think and even evaluate your own
prejudices and religion.
Sebold’s description of heaven comes across as believable,
even to those who usually deny its existence. There seemed to be an
essential truth which is given to the reader. Towards the end of the book,
Susie Salmon opens up further on her heaven, “I would like to tell you that
it is beautiful here, that I am and you will one day be, forever safe. But
this heaven is not about safety, just as in its graciousness, it isn’t about
Following Susie’s murder, the poignant descriptions of
the family members trying to come to terms with a situation that
psychologists would even counsel against exploring in your imagination, will
keep the reader enthralled. The subsequent break-ups (and breakdowns) are
followed and again are in line with a real-life situation, and very
This interaction between the characters in the book,
really is the book.
Susie acts in the role of the 14 year old family member,
but forced to have the perpetual role of the voyeur while watching her
siblings grow up, and her parents grow old. What is even more frustrating,
is the fact that she can see and experience the real situation on earth, but
cannot really influence what is happening on earth. Author Sebold has turned
completely away from allowing herself the easy way out of the plot by
letting supernatural forces in to intervene. This is no Sc-Fi book in any
Susie learns that her murderer is also a serial killer,
but remains hopelessly fettered in her heaven, no matter how ‘free’ she is
in that heaven, unable to alter the course of the world.
She manages for one fleeting time to come down to earth
and ‘borrow’ her sister’s being, to experience some physical love, but it
cannot be more than minutes. Everyone has experienced a bereavement, be that
a grandparent or parent, brother, sister, child. That person remains in your
memory, and remains alive through that. That person can be seen in crowds
and glimpsed fleetingly during mundane tasks. According to Alice Sebold, you
have been visited by the spirits in their own heaven.
At B. 385, it is one of the lower priced paperbacks, but
one with the highest impact I have read all year. This is a book that comes
with my highest recommendation. If you delight in language, and mystery and
thought provoking prose, this is certainly the book for you. Incidentally, I
was given this book by someone who felt that I would enjoy it. I likewise
give this book to you.