Friday, April 20, 2012
Book review: The Lovely Bones
Description from Goodreads (below) can be found here along with other reviews.
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.
Linked up with Blonde... Undercover Blonde again for Book Club Friday!
Guys, I know this book sounds depressing. And it is sad. But somehow I loved it.
I was waiting to post a review because I wanted to get ahold of a physical copy of the book since I listened to it on audio. Well, that hasn't happened yet, and I don't want to forget why I loved this book, so I'm going to try to write this anyway.
The Goodreads page for The Lovely Bones is full of negative reviews, so I guess take mine with a grain of salt.
1. I wrote here about a quote I found in this book that talks about the main character's mother. This is only one example of the beautiful portrayal of the mother, Abigail. But really, all of the characters are so dynamic, so intricate, so interesting. Sebold takes each character and charts their reaction to Susie's death and each one is so different and each is so believable. This book is about the rape and murder of a young girl, yes, but to me, it's more about grief and reaction and what do people do when their world falls apart.
2. I loved how she showed grief and reaction for Susie's family but also in the lives of many others -- a classmate she'd only spoken to once in her life, the boy who had a crush on her and gave Susie her first kiss, that boy's mother, some of the neighbors. It shows the spiderweb of the lives one person touches and the way every action affects people you'd never expect to feel the ripple caused by what you did.
I think the essence of the book is shown in the quote from which it was named:
"These were the lovely bones that had grown around my absence: the connections-sometimes tenuous, sometimes made at great cost, but often magnificent--that happened after I was gone."
3. I love, love, loved the grandmother. She was hilarious and perfect. I wouldn't mind if I grew up to be her.
4. I could see myself in Lindsay, Susie's sister, who works hard to protect the rest of her family from feeling the grief too much.
The book did have a weird ending--starting around chapter 22, I think. I haven't quite decided what to think about a few chapters there at the end. I don't think I liked them.
But the rest of it was so beautiful to me that I guess I don't quite care. I loved it anyway.
I recommended the book to my mom and she said it didn't sound like her kind of book. Like I said, it is sad. And there is rape and murder, though it isn't super graphic and it all happens pretty quickly. But this book... This book shows relationships, love, and grief more clearly than I've ever seen them presented.
Have any of you read The Lovely Bones? I'd love to hear what you thought, especially since reviews on Goodreads are so polarized.