14 year old Susie gets murdered, but this book is not your usual murder mystery, eager to lead you down the garden path in order to discover who the murder was. The whole event is seen through Susie's eyes, and she clearly tells us who murdered her! She also tells us about heaven, but not the heaven we might expect, not the heaven where little, beautiful, murdered girls wake up wearing wings and a harp. Her first task in heaven is to re-assemble her limbs, the murderer had cut her up, in order to hide her body more easily. You might now think that this is a rather gruesome book, but in fact, it isn't. It describes the unfolding events from Susie's viewpoint, the bird, or even angel's, view, but it doesn't indulge in bloody details and horror. So, what is this book about? Basically it is about life, life that goes, or better said limbs, on after tragedy hit.
The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold
The Lovely Bones ended up on the New York Times Bestseller List, but is it worth reading? Here my opinion ...
After a short time of hope, her family has to adjust to the fact that their daughter, sister and granddaughter will never come back to them. And also her friends have to learn to cope with the events alone. All this whilst Susie watches her murderer getting on just fine with his life. Her family does cope less well, and what were just little cracks in the family fabric before her untimely dead, are becoming quickly huge gaps that threaten to torn the family apart. Without going into to much detail and spoil it for the ones that still haven't read 'The Lovely Bones', I can say that it is a well written account, and even celebration, of life in a suburban, middle-class American neighborhood.
The Lovely Bones at Amazon
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|The Lovely Bones: A Novel|
A few thing that intrigued me especially, and one I could have done without:
Granted, it is a heaven where God and angels are not explicitly mentioned, but in a strange way they are still present if you want them to and absent if you prefer to. The point that most intrigued me in Alice Sebold's representation of heaven was the idea of what could be called 'over-lapping, virtual realities'. Everybody lives in his or her heaven, but shares at the same time these heavenly parts that they have in common with others. As a Christian, this makes perfectly sense for me. By definition, heaven has to be perfect, but my heaven is not necessarily perfect for you ;-) Susie's heaven is full of dogs, dance and music. And people she used to know or people that have something in common with her. Her heaven is perfect for her, but she knows that other people in heaven experience a different version because they need another heaven than she does. Perhaps for me the most intriguing part of the book, and I wish that a lot of fanatics and fundamentalists (Christians and others) will take notice and start to think: Perhaps my perfect heaven is not what everybody else needs. Or even: There might be a heaven out there, I don't agree with – and that is just fine! And perhaps, just perhaps, a few theologians start to take notice of this concept and re-think the idea of a 'cookie cutter one for all heaven'. But enough of the heavens, lets go back to earth!
Without giving away the plot, the story evolves around those left behind and how the murder of Susie and the whereabouts of her 'Lovely Bones' affect everybody. In short the family implodes, then explodes and in the end kind of stitches together again. And Susie is watching. The novel is mostly fast-paced, but it would be unfair to omit that in the middle it is a bit drawn out and --- slooowly. Only for a few pages, and others might even see it as a way the writer choose to express and to give emphasis to what happened. Whilst this part of the story might or might not appeal, one set of scenes, where Susie exchanges places for a short time with a former schoolmate, is just odd and perhaps the weakest point in the whole novel. But thankfully, also this is just a short sidestep out of the flow of a great novel.
Kindle, Movie etc
I must admit, I haven't seen the movie -yet- so I can't say anything else than that it exists. As 'The Lovely Bones' (which I always want to call 'These Lovely Bones', for no apparent reason) is a bestseller it is easily available in many different forms and versions, Kindle, Hardback, Paperback and different electronic formats included. So take your pick! Btw, the movie is rated 'PG-13' (parental guidance, for viewers over 13 years) because of the mature thematic material that involves disturbing, violent content and images, and some 'mature' language.
'The Lovely Bones' by Alice Sebold is a great novel that is rightly since months on the Bestseller lists and most likely will stay there for many months to come. It is not a graphic novel, nor does it indulge in gruesome details, nor does it conjure up horrible images in your mind. In my opinion, it is kind of a gentle horror novel, and perfectly ok to be read by teenagers, but not by younger children. Without wanting to sound sanctimonious, the scene at the beginning when Susie grows suspicious and questions herself if it would be a good idea to walk with the man that would become her murderer might actually open eyes for youngsters that think: 'Will not happen to me, nobody that knows me will hurt me.'
What else rests to say about 'The Lovely Bones'? Heaven is just the first stage. The ones that love us, never leave us. Live is for living – even if you are dead ;-) The book ends with the dead of the murderer (sorry, not telling you how he dies), I would have loved (if that is the right word) to read about his afterlife experience. Because that is for me the biggest shortcoming of the story, it only tells us what happens to the good and innocent, but evades the question what happens to the evil and distorted ones after dead. The next big point that didn't get covered well is how the murderer became one. Nobody is born a murderer, what converts a person into one? But perhaps that is a question for another novel ...