Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold

October 1, 2009
By Yasmin Matthew BRONZE, Plano, Texas
Yasmin Matthew BRONZE, Plano, Texas
1 article 0 photos 0 comments

From the start, the reader may think The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold is just another supernatural ghost story, full of teen heartthrobs and useless fluff, however, it is just the opposite. It is a gripping tale of Susie Salmon, her rape and murder, and how she watches her loved ones live their lives without her. The Lovely Bones is the second major published work by Alice Sebold that incorporates a story of rape, an experience that she lived through while in college. Although the story isn’t centered on the topic of rape like her previous novel Lucky, a memoir which won the Bram Stoker Award, Sebold still won the American Booksellers Association Book of the year award for Adult Fiction in 2003 for her portrayal of the Salmon family in The Lovely Bones. Alice Sebold uses vibrant imagery, satire, and blunt truths to convey this story of hurt, forgiveness, and love.

This first person novel progresses in chronological order with various flashbacks thrown into the mix. Although to some it may be a little challenging to understand exactly what’s going on with the constant changes in point of view, Sebold’s smooth transitions from character to character help to keep the story seamless. Nevertheless, Sebold’s use of first person not only captures the emotions of all of the characters in the book, but it also helps the reader to relate to every character individually and to feel their pain. The book is filled with vivid imagery of events from the place of Susie’s murder, to the sinkhole where her body was buried. The reader can tell by Sebold’s voice during the rape scene, as she describes Susie’s feelings in detail, “I felt bloated. I felt like a sea in which he stood and pissed and shat. I felt the corners of my body were turning in on themselves and out” (14), the extent of what one feels during such a vulnerable moment during one’s lifetime. This thorough description of the heinous crime is enhanced due to Alice Sebold’s personal experience with the topic of rape, because she is able to add subtle details that a writer not personally experienced with the topic could not get across so eloquently. Not only do we feel Susie’s pain during this scene, but the author’s voice seeps through with each word.

After Susie’s death, she begins to watch her family grieve in numerous ways, one of which is seeking vengeance on Susie’s killer. With such a topic, it could’ve been easy for Sebold to lose sight of the true exigence of the book; however by infusing bits of satire all throughout the book, for instance joking about, “How to Commit the Perfect Murder…an old game played in heaven. I always chose the icicle: the weapon melts away” (125), she easily keeps the reader into the mystery of the story while not completely abandoning her sarcastic tone. Although a serious topic, the author successfully lightens the mood of a tale that could have been a depressing memoir of a girl raped, while also leaves clues for the reader to decipher for themselves, making the novel a quasi-mystery. After all the twist and turns of the novel, it ends with a cliché, “I wish you all a long and happy life” (328). Although this may be satisfying and provide closure to some, it was a rather disappointing ending to what was, up to that point, a satisfying novel.

Even though the book is more of a character study, the underlying topic of vengeance that captivated us from the first chapter, remains throughout and in some ways keeps the reader on their toes. Overall, I would recommend Lovely Bones to anyone who is looking for an easy book to read, that is told from a different perspective then most other novels available today.

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