The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold

October 1, 2009
When I began reading The Lovely Bones, I knew I was in for a thriller. The author Alice Sebold opens the story with a horrific rape and murder of a 14-year-old little girl. There are relationships between the tragedy in The Lovely Bones and in the author’s real life. At age 18, while she was studying at Syracuse University, Alice Sebold was attacked and brutally raped. She eventually returned to college after taking some time off. Her goal was to write her story, but attempt after attempt failed. After writing a memoir called Lucky, her best selling novel The Lovely Bones was published. It is a curious thing how experiences in a person’s life can effect what they write about. Alice Sebold commented to Publisher’s Weekly in an interview about why all her writing was about stories of rape and murder saying, “I was motivated to write about violence because I believe it's not unusual. I see it as just a part of life, and I think we get in trouble when we separate people who've experienced it from those who haven't. Though it's a horrible experience, it's not as if violence hasn't affected many of us.”
I say, write what you know. Otherwise, how can you impact the reader if what you write does not share some piece of your heart or life’s experience? That’s why The Lovely Bones was such an enjoyable book – Alice Sebold wrote about what really happens in real life, especially what happened in hers. Plus, she adds a creative twist by making the narrative from the perspective of the dead Susie Salmon, who literally watched down on earth.

Throughout the entire story, Susie observes the lives of her family and close friends on earth after her death. With the knowledge of the author’s background, I appreciated how raw she was in writing from Susie, the rape and murder victim’s perspective. Alice Sebold uses fantastic imagery to describe characters, emotions, and situations such as Susie’s “soul solidifying” which is a strange way for a soul to be described (120 Sebold). She also chooses to use oxymorons, and as an example during the story, Buckly claims to have seen his dead sister. Susie questions what he really saw and calls him “a little boy telling beautiful lies” – how can lies be beautiful? (95 Sebold). Because of the context, Alice Sebold picks graphic verbs to describe Susie’s murder. Any reader will shiver by the way she tells of the horrible rape and murder and the creepy after math.

In The Lovely Bones, there are two distinct and creative pots – one on earth and on heaven. Susie Salmon finds her new “life” in heaven (even though she is not really living because she is dead), and her family and friends continue their lives on earth. Inside the two plots, however, are mazes of individual stories. Each character finds themselves changing after Susie’s murder and coping with the tragedy in the their own personal way. Susie observes her mother and notices how after having Buckley, “she sealed the more mysterious mother off” (152 Sebold). Abigail relies on the police force while her husband, Jack, criticizes and questions their ability. At one point in frustration, he exclaims how he feels that he is standing on “the wake of a volcano eruption” (135 Sebold). The writer really cares about her characters. She never slacks on their characterization, and each major character develops throughout the novel. Even while in heaven, Susie changes and mature.

Overall, I am impressed by Alice Sebold’s ability to write such a gripping novel. I respect her authentic voice throughout the story – she writes honestly. Each character has importance in the story and nothing seems unnecessary. The Lovely Bones is a definite must read. It has the qualities of a thriller and a tear-jerker at the same time. Any reader will sit back and consider how they themselves would react to such a tragedy. But even during tragedy, there can be growth, as Alice Sebold shares with us in The Lovely Bones.

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