Friday, October 8, 2010

Book Review: The Lovely Bones

The Lovely Bones* I read this book last year, but seeing as many people are interested in it, I'm sharing my review that was posted on Shelfari.

Author: Alice Sebold
Title: The Lovely Bones
Publisher: Back Bay Books
Publish Date: 2002
Rating: 2 Stars
Book Blurb: Sebold's first novel after her memoir, Lucky is a small but far from minor miracle. Sebold has taken a grim, media-exploited subject and fashioned from it a story that is both tragic and full of light and grace. The novel begins swiftly. In the second sentence, Sebold's narrator, Susie Salmon, announces, "I was fourteen when I was murdered on December 6, 1973." Susie is taking a shortcut through a cornfield when a neighbor lures her to his hideaway. The description of the crime is chilling, but never vulgar, and Sebold maintains this delicate balance between homely and horrid as she depicts the progress of grief for Susie's family and friends. She captures the odd alliances forged and the relationships ruined: the shattered father who buries his sadness trying to gather evidence, the mother who escapes "her ruined heart, in merciful adultery." At the same time, Sebold brings to life an entire suburban community, from the mortician's son to the handsome biker dropout who quietly helps investigate Susie's murder. Much as this novel is about "the lovely bones" growing around Susie's absence, it is also full of suspense and written in lithe, resilient prose that by itself delights. Sebold's most dazzling stroke, among many bold ones, is to narrate the story from Susie's heaven (a place where wishing is having), providing the warmth of a first-person narration and the freedom of an omniscient one. It might be this that gives Sebold's novel its special flavor, for in Susie's every observation and memory of the smell of skunk or the touch of spider webs is the reminder that life is sweet and funny and surprising.

Review: The Lovely Bones was one of those books that came highly recommended to me by a number of friends when I read Elsewhere. I was so excited to get this book from a friend. Then I started reading it. Talk about a downer.

It was extremely well written considering that the book is more about dealing with the happenings in the lives of the family and friends of Susie Salmon after she was brutally raped and murdered. I would like to thank Alice Sebold for going a little too much into detail in that part of the novel. That wasn't what I wanted to read about.  Thank you very much for the nightmares. Don't get me wrong though, Sebold handled Susie's death well. It was gruesome, but it wasn't written in such a way that the reader would be put off.

What bugged me about this book was how incomplete some of the characterization was in some places. I just couldn't get some of the reaction after Susie's death, especially by her mother who seemed devoid of interest in her children, all of them. In fact, I found her totally unlikable, especially when she returns home after leaving her family for 10 years. Jack (the father) seemed to fit the bill of a father coping with the loss of a child, especially one that had been brutally murdered.

The teenage characters are more developed and you can relate to them more, like Ray Singh, Ruth and her sister Lindsey. These are the characters that make the story more than just another mediocre read. I would have loved to see more development in Grandma Lynn, especially as she moved in with her son-in-law when Abigail (the mother) deserted them all.

The aspects of heaven that Sebold paints here aren't any different than what's been seen before. Heaven is what you make it. That was done in Richard Matheson's What Dreams May Come, a far better book in my eyes. I'm glad that the writer didn't try to take a more religious stance in the book when it came to heaven, because I would have been more dissappointed. I was a bit puzzled as to why Susie didn't see Grandma Lynn in heaven even though she knew she was there. This was written off as she'll come to see Susie eventually.

And there was a part near the end, with Susie falling to earth that really made no sense in the grand scheme of the story, at least to me.

Overall, the book was depressing to me. There was really no closure for Susie's family and I actually felt relieved that I finished it. This was one book that I feel got more hype than it deserved.


Rebecca said...

this book was good. We read this for book club and it made for interesting discussion. Especially the aspect of Heaven in this book.

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