Review of “The Lovely Bones”

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The Lovely BonesAlice Sebold’s The Lovely Bones is not an easy novel to read, but

it’s also not as difficult as it could be, considering it opens with

the brutal rape and murder of a fourteen-year-old girl, Susie Salmon.

The

novel proceeds to describe the aftermath of the murder from Susie’s

point of view, as she watches her friends and family cope with the

tragedy from her vantage point up in her own personalized version of

heaven.

Over

time, Susie’s family slowly comes apart at the seams in the wake of

Susie’s murder, as her parents’ marriage unravels and her brother and

sister struggle with the impact of Susie’s murder. Susie watches and

longs to help but is mostly unable to interfere, except for one moment

many years later.

A friend of Susie’s from school, Ruth, happens

to be walking through the cornfield on the night Susie is murdered and

is brushed by Susie’s spirit as it leaves her body, causing Ruth to

develop heightened sensitivity to the spirits of the dead among the

living. Ruth becomes fascinated with Susie’s life, and death, and

subsequently becomes friends with the boy Susie had a crush on, Ray

Singh.

Ruth grows up to become a lesbian living in New York, still seeing the

spirits of murdered women. She also stays in touch with Ray, and one

day, Susie’s spirit possesses Ruth’s body in order to make love to Ray,

because Susie always wanted to experience sex and was never able to

while she was alive.

The Lovely Bones is

a masterful novel that keeps your attention throughout. Sebold’s prose

is sparing and detached, perhaps meant to symbolize Susie’s detachment

from the world she is watching; the result is that potentially horrific

scenes become palatable, and the unwieldy, unmanageable grief

experienced by Susie’s family is communicated through small, powerful

moments.

The

book also clearly draws attention to the increasing number of young

girls who are raped and murdered in America; no doubt the author’s

attention to this issue is in part a result of her own rape in college,

which she details in her memoir Lucky.

There are a few areas that

could be improved, however. The ending feels a little too neat, a

little too convenient; it would have been more realistic if Sebold had

allowed the story to end with the same messiness and loose ends with

which it began.

It

is also hard to believe that Susie would still have the teenager’s

obsession with sex after death that led her to briefly possess Ruth’s

body, and I wish we could have seen Ruth with a woman, rather than

always on her own, or with Ray.

But

these criticisms are minor considering that 2002’s book of the year — a

novel that broke all sorts of sales records and has been dubbed a

classic by book critics all over the country — has a sympathetic and

likeable lesbian among the cast of characters.

The Lovely Bones

may not be perfect, but it is a riveting and memorable story that

challenges violence against women and homophobia — the real reason, in

my opinion, that The Lovely Bones deserves to be the book of the year.

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