The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold
When we first meet 14-year-old Susie Salmon, she is already in heaven. This was before milk carton photos and public service announcements, she tells us; back in 1973, when Susie mysteriously disappeared, people still believed these things didn't happen. In the sweet, untroubled voice of a precocious teenage girl, Susie relates the awful events of her death and her own adjustment to the strange new place she finds herself. It looks a lot like her school playground, with the good kind of swing sets. With love, longing, and a growing understanding, Susie watches her family as they cope with their grief, her father embarks on a search for the killer, her sister undertakes a feat of amazing daring, her little brother builds a fort in her honor and begin the difficult process of healing. In the hands of a brilliant novelist, this story of seemingly unbearable tragedy is transformed into a suspenseful and touching story about family, memory, love, heaven, and living.
I've read this book countless times before, and I wanted to have it fresh in my mind before the film is released, so I can have a relentless moan if they change or bastardise anything in the slightest.
The Lovely Bones is widely criticised for being grammatically poor, lacking in plot and presenting the reader with overly stereotyped characters, not to mention for being a Richard & Judy housewife novel. All of these things would normally lead me to despise a book, but for some reason I fell in love with this one eight years ago, and again each time I've read it since.
Susie's viewpoint from heaven gives the book an odd kind of feel, but I found myself comfortable and believing it wholeheartedly.
One of my favourite things about the book is that it isn't the Who Killed Susie? mystery that it could've been. Susie tells us almost immediately who her murderer was, and I found that refreshing. It led to the book being more about character than plot, showing us each character's basic and raw emotions, and I liked that too.
I did dislike, however, the ending where Susie falls back to Earth. Yes, I've been carried along listening to a story told by a dead girl watching her family from heaven. I can accept that. The part where she returns to Earth, however, was a huge disappointment to me, and completely unbelievable. Sebold had doused the story in reality as much as possible, and then this? Come on.
I do like to think of myself as a bit of a book snob, the kind of person who won't be disturbed by a Richard & Judy housewife book with glaringly obvious sentimental plot devices. However, this isn't really the case, and I ended up crying like a wee lassie on various occasions.
I honestly believe this novel to be a true modern classic. The new outlook on life, death, and the inbetween is something to be considered, and possibly cherished. Sebold's ability to write so beautifully about something so horrific is definitely commendable. It's thought-provoking, original, and it's one I believe everyone should try at least once.
6 / 66 books. 9% done!