Select one of the keywords
The Lovely Bones    by Alice Sebold order for
Lovely Bones
by Alice Sebold
Order:  USA  Can
Little, Brown & Co., 2009 (2002)
Hardcover, Paperback, Audio, CD, e-Book
* * *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

I picked up this book in the middle of packing our home for a move and, despite all the urgent tasks needing attention, I could not put it down and read late into the night. The Lovely Bones touched me in the same way as the movie Life is Beautiful, creating joy out of desolation. Alice Sebold pulls her readers into a situation which represents the ultimate in horror for a parent; events read in the newspapers but unimaginable in our own lives. She devastates a family and then creates something beautiful out of the bones of their life together.

The tale is narrated by fourteen-year-old Susie Salmon, who is in a kind of antechamber to Heaven when she describes her murder by Mr. Harvey, 'a man from our neighborhood'. Susie's Heaven is how she wants it to be; a remarkable place, familiar and peopled with other souls whose interests touch on her own. Susie has strong ties to the world that she left so abruptly and she 'came to believe that if I watched closely, and desired, I might change the lives of those I loved on Earth.'

We see her family, her friends - and her murderer - through Susie's eyes. Her insights give them instant depth as when she wants to tell her little sister Lindsey's principal how to reach out to her ... 'Make her laugh ... Bring her to a Marx Brothers movie, sit on a fart cushion, show her the boxers you have one with the little devils eating hot dogs on them!' We watch in fascination together as the ripples from the huge splash of her murder expand to change the lives of people she (still) loves and cares about.

In addition to Susie's family there is Ray Singh, with whom she shared a first, and only, kiss. There is her recently discovered friend Ruth, 'the quietest kind of rebel', brilliant and misunderstood, who felt a shiver when 'a pale running ghost' passed and became obsessed with Susie's death and with violence against women and children. Ray and Ruth form an unlikely friendship. Susie watches her sister Lindsey experience things that she missed, and Lindsey joins their father in a burning desire to bring the murderer to justice. Their parents are damaged in ways that pull them apart, as the father gets labelled a 'crackpot' and the mother seeks escape into a prior identity.

The characters are all memorable from the quietly optimistic police lieutenant Len to Ray's mother, who is 'delicate iron'. We watch them very slowly begin to move on with their lives, including Susie who needs to 'stop desiring certain answers' before she can move on to a true, joyful Heaven. Finally she does relearn 'the helplessness of being alive, the dark bright pity of being human' and is gone.

If you read nothing else this summer, make sure that you read The Lovely Bones. On a base of tragedy, Sebold builds a beautiful construct with hints of fantasy, mystery and romance, and a great deal about day to day survival and coping - in short, a novel about life. It's one that you can't stop thinking about. You will rush to tell others about the book, but then grope for the right words; they will just have to read it for themselves.

Audiobook Review by Lyn Seippel:

Susie Salmon's first person account of her rape and murder begins, 'I was fourteen years old when I was murdered on December 6, 1973.' Susie is the victim of a pedophile whose rapes and murders have gone on for years as he moves from city to city.

Susie tells her story from heaven where she watches her family grieve as she follows their lives after her death. Heaven is unlike anything Susie expected, but she soon realizes that she in an interim heaven where she'll stay until she can let go of earthly concerns. Here she can see, hear, and understand what is happening to her friends and family in the aftermath of her disappearance.

On earth they finally accept that Susie has been murdered and won't be coming back. The police investigation ends, but her daddy refuses to abandon his search for the murderer. He hones in on a neighbor, but no one will listen to his reasoning except for Susie's younger sister Lindsay. Alice Sebold does a wonderful job narrating her own novel. If you haven't read The Lovely Bones, this audiobook version makes a great introduction to a very talented writer.

Note: Opinions expressed in reviews and articles on this site are those of the author(s) and not necessarily those of BookLoons.

Find more Contemporary books on our Shelves or in our book Reviews