The Lovely Bones Book Review by Alice Sebold

October 2, 2009
The Lovely Bones, written by Alice Sebold, is a heart-wrenching novel with painful links to the author’s life and shows the reader the struggles Sebold went through in her own life as well as explain the life of a character that grows throughout the novel. Sebold is well known for her novel, Lucky, which addresses the topic of rape as shown in The Lovely Bones. Sebold’s awards include receiving the American Booksellers Association Book of the Year Award for Adult Fiction in 2003 and the Bram Stoker Award for First Novel in 2002.
These two highly-acclaimed novels shine a light on the personal struggles Sebold faced, after being beaten and brutally raped during her freshman year at Syracuse University. The Lovely Bones is a novel that addresses real-life issues and horrors. According to The U.S. Department of Justice, “Somewhere in America, a woman is raped every 2 minutes.” Sebold was able to create such a believable character due to the fact that she was raped, so there is no need to create the mind-set of a rape victim because she is one.
Sebold’s style of writing contributes to the overall mood of the novel and the dark content plays a part in the tone and the trials and tribulations Susie’s family go through. The diction used in The Lovely Bones makes this book an easy read and a novel that is appropriate for someone who wants to quickly read a novel while understanding the meaning in the book as well. This novel is filled with deep sorrow and is portrayed when the Salmon family is grieving over the death of their daughter and sister, Susie Salmon. The Lovely Bones is written in the perspective of Susie, a fourteen year old girl who was raped and dismembered by her neighbor, Mr. Harvey. The novel is through Susie’s eyes and mind as she peers down from her heaven into the lives of her friends and family. It is difficult at times to read Susie watch her family go through such hard times and pain without her being able to help them, but that is one of the factors concerning Susie’s personal and emotional growth throughout the book.
The main character, Susie Salmon, is portrayed as an average teenage girl in the beginning of the novel, but she undergoes many transformations and finally begins to mature and grow up towards the end of the book when she is in heaven. “I did begin to wonder what the word heaven meant. I thought, if this were heaven, truly heaven, it would be where my grandparents lived… I would feel only joy and have no memory, no cornfield and no grave” (Sebold, 136). The cornfield, along with being able to look down on her murderer everyday are constant reminders to Susie of her death and the sorrow instilled within her family.
Susie’s death plays a big part in her maturing throughout the book and realizing who she is, because of her friends and family never forgetting about her and her self-realization of what she is capable of. As the book progresses, Susie learns a better understanding of what death is. It may be painful to deal with at first and that feeling of horrible grief may never disappear, but in the end she is a better person because of the fact that she is able to watch her family and friend’s lives change drastically. “And then as quickly as the rain had started, it ceased. Sun came through the branches of the tree above her, and Ruth looked up past them. “I think she listens,” she said, too softly to be heard” (141). That quote shows Sebold’s ability to incorporate Susie’s view of her friends from heaven and that she isn’t alone. Susie’s friends and family never forget about her and she is constantly on their minds, despite the amount of grief they may feel.
The Lovely Bones is a novel that should not be read at any age due to the subject matter, but it will have a lasting impression on the reader through its insight into families dealing with grief and trying to unfold a murder they would rather turn away from in hopes of it disappearing from their lives completely. Never slowing its pace, this novel is sure to impress as well as pull on your heart strings and allow you to look at your family and view life in an entirely new light.

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