The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold

October 1, 2009
The Lovely Bones

The engrossing and compassionate novel, The Lovely Bones, is the second published book of Alice Sebold. Both, Lucky, Sebold’s first novel, and The Lovely Bones, deal with the issue of rape, which Sebold herself experienced. This novel is very touching and well thought out.
Sebold’s novel is told from the point of view of a fourteen year old girl who is murdered in the early 1970s. At first thought, this novel might seem like its filled with rainbows and butterflies and a quick acceptance of death because it’s about a teenage girl. That is the complete opposite of what this book truly is. Yes, the primary voice is that of Susie, the young girl, but Sebold’s diction lets the reader enter the minds of the other characters both major and minor. Sebold’s superb diction somewhat gives the book several different perspectives.
Different perspectives are essential to the plot because all of the characters are connected by Susie’s death, and they are all dealing with it contrastingly. Sebold’s characters are developed brilliantly, even with an eight year jump. Her description of how characters, Jack and Abigail Salmon, grew apart greatly influenced the plot. Sebold’s character analysis lets the reader conclude that one parent couldn’t take it anymore. Lindsey Salmon concluded that, “Over the years Dad grew towards us, while Mom grew away”. Sebold lets the reader figure out why Abigail left her family, and why Jack stayed throughout the whole book.
Sebold’s syntactical choices lie in who says what. Some things said from one character’s point of view would not fit another’s. Buckley Salmon’s attitude and eventual curt words towards his mother, after an eight year return, would have been out of place coming from Lindsey Salmon. Ruth Connors who had no relationship to Susie, the only contact they’d had was because they,"...were in the same class since kindergarten but that day backstage in the auditorium was the first time we ever looked at each other". This let Sebold tell an outsider’s opinion on the whole matter. Words that came from Ruth’s mind were not those that could come from anyone else. The novel is called The Lovely Bones, yet the reader does not find out the explanation towards the end. “These were the lovely bones that had grown around my absence:” she writes, “the connections — sometimes tenuous, sometimes made at great cost, but often magnificent — that happened after I was gone”. It was good decision making on Sebold’s part to wait and put that line in at the end.

The Lovely Bones is written in chronological order with flashbacks in between. Yet the flashbacks do not give the reader headaches like most novels do. These trips back in time are insightful, necessary, and valuable to the reader. They help to keep Sebold’s organization in check. Ray Singh did not wake up one day and fall in love with the then alive Susie; a flashback explains it took months for his feelings to strengthen and for him to work up the courage to kiss her. Abigail did not have an affair with Detective Len Fenerman because she felt like it. A flashback shows that Jack and Abigail had once been in a thriving marriage. Flashbacks give information that would otherwise be lost and enable the reader to understand plot elements in the present.
I would thoroughly recommend this book to anyone looking for an intelligent and sensitive read. Don’t start The Lovely Bones unless you can finish it in one sitting.





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