Book Review
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Book Review

Book Review: by Lang Reid

The Lovely Bones

Alice 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 gritty reality.”

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 credible.

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 way.

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.