Friday, July 27, 2012

E-Reading: Book Review of The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold

Name of Book: The Lovely Bones

Author: Alice Sebold

ISBN: 978-0-7595-2773-7

Publisher: Hachete Book Group

Type of book: murder, 1973-1980s, murder, family, brief white female/South Asian male relationship, friendship, sisterhood, father/ daughter relationship, afterlife, heaven, moving on.

Year it was published: 2002


Shockingly original and completely unforgettable, The Lovely Bones is the story of a family devastated by a gruesome murder -- a murder recounted by the teenage victim. Upsetting, you say? Remarkably, first-time novelist Alice Sebold takes this difficult material and delivers a compelling and accomplished exploration of a fractured family's need for peace and closure.

The details of the crime are laid out in the first few pages: from her vantage point in heaven, Susie Salmon describes how she was confronted by the murderer one December afternoon on her way home from school. Lured into an underground hiding place, she was raped and killed. But what the reader knows, her family does not. Anxiously, we keep vigil with Susie, aching for her grieving family, desperate for the killer to be found and punished.

Sebold creates a heaven that's calm and comforting, a place whose residents can have whatever they enjoyed when they were alive -- and then some. But Susie isn't ready to release her hold on life just yet, and she intensely watches her family and friends as they struggle to cope with a reality in which she is no longer a part. To her great credit, Sebold has shaped one of the most loving and sympathetic fathers in contemporary literature.

In the tradition of Alice McDermott, who wrote so elegantly about death in Charming Billy, Sebold unveils a book whose presence will linger with readers for a long, long time and signals the arrival of a novelist to be reckoned with.


I did get to see how single tragedy affected the characters for decades and years to come. That's the only good thing I could think of when it comes to the book: the father that dedicates himself to bringing the killer to justice, the mother that decides to leave the family, the other siblings as well as their struggles to get through the tragedy, along with friends. None of the characters remain the same.


I'm not sure what I should have learned from this book: dead don't leave us?


This is in first person narrative, with third person narrative when it comes to characters. The narrator is omniscient and she gives details and thoughts as to who was thinking in particular. Still there is lack of transition words that would make it easier for me to understand, and not enough about heaven or her life in heaven is explained. For instance, how does she move on from one character to another? Does she wish it and then she's watching or is living inside the character? I felt that the author didn't make it clear enough.

Author Information:

September 06, 1963 in Madison, Wisconsin, The United States



Literature & Fiction, Biographies & Memoirs

About this author

Alice Sebold is an American writer. She has published three books: Lucky (1999), The Lovely Bones (2002), and The Almost Moon (2007).


I liked the idea of the story: a teenage murder victim watches her family from heaven and details to the readers what happens and what they are thinking as the days and so forth pass. But while idea is fascinating, the writing really killed all the love I had for the novel. The points of views constantly overlapped, thus I had difficult time differentiating who's thinking and who's not, and the author clearly didn't explain the reasons that the neighbors began to find the murder very suspicious, or who he was in the past and why he turned to the path he became. There was too much description and barely any plot. Heaven itself is barely explored, and it would be great help if transitions are better used; instead in few paragraphs Susie recalls a memory she had of her sister or life, and then in the next she would move on to a point of view without any warning! The memories themselves didn't even fit in with the story, and I have trouble understanding why the story is titled The Lovely Bones.

1 out of 5
(0: Stay away unless a masochist 1: Good for insomnia 2: Horrible but readable; 3: Readable and quickly forgettable, 4: Good, enjoyable 5: Buy it, keep it and never let it go.)

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