Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Fiction Review: The Lovely Bones

For years now, I've been meaning to read The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold but just never got around to it, so when I spotted it on my mother-in-law's bookshelf during the holidays, I snatched it up.  What an absorbing novel to read while stuck in airplanes and airports all day!

As you've probably already heard from either the book or the popular movie adaptation, The Lovely Bones begins with a young girl's murder and is narrated by the girl, Susie, after her death.  The first part of the book is absolutely horrifying.  If I hadn't heard so much praise for the book, I may not have continued reading it.  In fact, during the first chapters, I thought, "I hope WE didn't buy this for my mother-in-law - she would have hated this!" (we didn't).

I'm glad I stuck with it, though, because although the book is very sad, especially from the perspective of a parent, it really is about more than violence and death.  It's also about life and afterlife.  Susie looks down upon her family members and friends from "my heaven," watching them and wishing she could communicate with them.  After such a sudden and violent death, she's not ready to move on, so she observes her family's suffering, her killer's pretense of innocence, and sees her friends and sister growing up.  She lives vicariously through them, growing up emotionally in her own way along with them, even though she will never age physically.

As I said, this book is about life - the ups, the downs, the joys, and the sorrows.  Yes, it is sad, but it is also about hope and healing.  In an odd way, it's also a coming-of-age novel, even though Susie never grows older than fourteen.  And it's about the afterlife, with the author's unique and engrossing view of what that might be like.  After we got back home, my son said to me, "Mom, that must be a really good book because you've been carrying it around with you, reading constantly."  He was right - it's a very good book really pulls you in and makes you care about the characters.  When I finished it, I just closed the cover and sat still, thinking about it.  Now that's the sign of a good book.

328 pages, Little, Brown & Company.


  1. I'm glad that you continued with it because as much as it's very sad, it's also breathtaking and incredibly uplifting by the end. It's amazing how Alice Sebold made that happen given the circumstances of Suzie's death. Has your mother-in-law read the book yet? I know what you mean about loved ones reading certain books--I'm always concerned about what to give my grandma to read as she may not take to certain themes very well.

  2. I loved this book when I read it years ago. Everyone mentions how hard the beginning was to read. I don't remember that. I'm either heartless or I blocked it our since it was so brutal. Of course, it could also be my usual "I can never remember the details of books I read." *Sigh*

  3. Unfortunately, my MIL passed away in June last year from Parkinson's disease. She loved to read, but didn't like too much violence or sex in her books. Reading was one of the few things she could enjoy in the last 5 years, so I loved finding good books for her to enjoy.

  4. Pam - Since the rest of the book makes up for the horrible beginning, I'm sure you just blocked it out!

    You're not alone - my husband and I sometimes reread books or rewatch movies we've read/seen before...and sometimes don't realize it until the end!

  5. Sue~ I'm sorry to hear that. Having an open mind to what you read is a wonderful thing for people of all ages. I wish everyone were that way!

    I have an award for you. Congrats :) Here are the details.