The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold

October 1, 2009
Alice Sebold has a very unique writing style that could catch the reader off guard. She approaches subjects that are shocking to some, in a very blunt and confident way. This is an aspect that I truly enjoyed in her writing. While most authors will shy away from these themes, Sebold hits them head on and never slows down. "But by the time the Gilberts' dog found my elbow three days later and brought it home with a telling corn husk attached to it, Mr.Harvey had closed it up."(Sebold 10). The question of death is a common theme in novels, but very rarely is it approached at such a direct angle. She uses fantastic imagery to put the reader in the precise mood of Susie Salmon, the narrator. "And then, like a thunderbolt, late in the afternoon, a policeman held up his earth-caked fist and shouted."(Sebold 23). This quote shows many traits of Sebold's writing style. The unique imagery allows the reader to see the hand of the policeman, who has obviously been digging in the mud for days. The term "earth-caked" describes the arduous tasks that are being carried out, as well as uses the effective dash to combine the two words into a riveting adjective. A simile is used as well, which became very common as the book went on to, once again, allow the reader to feel as if they were watching the events take place.

An area that I did not care for in Sebold's style was her constant drifting into mindless rambling onto topics within the book that did not have anything to do with the main plot. While the book was supposed to be about Susie's view from heaven looking down on to Earth to discover if her murderer was caught, it instead focused on the characters that were in Susie's life and how their lives altered. The novel spent about thirty pages on Susie's grandma Lynn with her alcoholism and "Jackie Kennedy dresses"(Sebold 106). Then it panels over to her mother's affair with the detective and her need for "simply a brief vacation from her life as Mrs. Salmon"(Sebold 196), which later translates to a literal vacation as she leaves her family behind to start over in California. The girl who Susie passed on her way to heaven named Ruth was a key part to the puzzle because she could see what Susie saw. However, the author continues to rant about her relationship with Ray Singh, Susie's crush from school, and her life in New York. Susie's sister, Lyndsey, also appeared that she would be important, but the story is only about her life with Samuel and has almost nothing to do with Susie's death after the first year. Mr. Harvey, the killer, and Susie's father are followed the least even though I find them to be the most important characters of the book. All other characters are described in full detail, and given entire descriptions from different accounts in their life, but these two are given a minimum background compared to their counterparts. The fact of her constant digressing from the plot of the book was the deciding factor in whether or not to recommend the story to others.

The book is written very well, and I do like the writer's style and her incorporation of themes into the novel, as well as her ability to make the story feel real through rhetorical devices and realistic characters. Despite these facts, the narrative is constantly leading the reader in different directions and in the end confuses them entirely, unless they have an impeccable attention span. The story seemingly never concludes and the ending leaves the reader wondering if there are pages missing. Therefore, I would not recommend the novel to others who are reading it for their leisure.

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