Drama / Mystery
The Lovely Bones
Author: Alice Sebold
Published By: Back Bay Books
Reviewed by Dorothy Doremus
Alice Sebold has penned a brilliant novel, The Lovely Bones. I was hooked from the first opening sentences, ďMy Name was Salmon, like the fish, first name, Susie. I was fourteen when I was murdered on December 6, 1973." So begins the afterlife of a young teen taken way before her time.
The story centers around Susie and what happens to her family after her untimely death. Susie isnít in heaven per se, but hanging about, with her heavenly mentor Franny and Holly, a friend she met one day on the swings. You see, Susie isnít ready to venture into the pearly gates. She is too wound up in her former life.
As any fourteen year old, Susie had a group of friends that she is curious about and a boyfriend, Ray, who she kissed shortly before her demise. Ray, the prime suspect in her murder isnít actually the murder - as you find out soon into the first chapter - but a person merely put into that circumstance because of the way Susie dies. We also meet Ruth, an art student with loads of talent, but is pretty much ignored until she submits a nude drawing in one of her classes. The day Ruth speaks to her art teacher on stage at the school auditorium she befriends Susie, who compliments her, and becomes a true friend even after her death.
Susieís parents are a large part of this story. You see, Susie was the heart and soul of the Salmon family and when she dies, a piece of them dies with her. Jack Salmon has a very hard time with Susieís death and begins an obsession with Mr. Harvey, a neighbor who he believes is the murderer. Abigail Salmon on the other hand becomes withdrawn and almost an alcoholic. She seeks no comfort in the arms of her husband but starts an affair with a detective working her daughter's case.
Buckley and Lindsey are Susieís siblings and are trying to move on from the tragedy that has sent their family into turmoil. Buckley goes through major changes, from a child to a young man bitter at his mother and resentful of his father not letting go of Susie. Lindsey on the other hand becomes her father's champion in proving his Mr. Harvey theory. Susie at some points lives her life vicariously through Lindsey, for instance when Lindsey experiences her first kiss with Samuel.
Throughout the novel, the lives of each of these characters come into play with each other. It is really nice for example how Lindsey is comforted by Ruth at camp and how Ray is spoken to by Jack Salmon about his daughter. All of the characters are written very well. Even Mr. Harvey, who you find out is not a one time offender but a serial killer with enough of a body count to fill a morgue.
There is a perfect mix here, the murder, the decent into the abyss after the memorial service, and the piecing back what is broken but never fully recovering. The book is quite graphic, the first chapter describes Susieís pre-murder in great detail and was very shocking, as well as some of the more intimate scenes.
I have to say this is 328 pages of some of the most vivid writing I have ever had the pleasure of reading. It almost made me feel like I was Susie looking down and watching this family. It was absolutely amazing. I understand a movie is in the works. I just hope the movie can do this book justice, as most movies never live up to the novel. I have a feeling they wonít even be close on this one, this novel was worth the read.