The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold
The Lovely Bones: the bestselling novel by Alice Sebold
In her novel The Lovely Bones, author Alice Sebold takes a shocking and upsetting theme - the rape and murder of a child, and from this dark background weaves a poignant, thought provoking and uplifting tale of enduring love, acceptance and redemption.
Based on her own real-life experience of rape, Alice Sebold uses her traumatic experience to approach an uncomfortable subject with both frankness and sensitivity.
The Lovely Bones is a coming of age story with a difference...the person "coming of age" is dead!
The narrator of The Lovely Bones is Susie Salmon, a 14 year old girl from an ordinary family with the ordinary hopes and dreams of a teenage girl on the brink of adulthood.
Tragically Susie is murdered by a neighbour in 1973 and her body is never found. Her family endure unbearable pain and despair, yet from her own particular version of heaven, Susie watches the lives of those she left behind unfold over a period of years. She watches as her friends and family grieve for her and she sees how her parents grow apart, as the way they deal with her loss sends their lives in different directions. She also watches the man who took her life and the lives of many other young girls and she bides her time...
A movie version of The Lovely Bones was released in 2009.
"My name was Salmon, like the fish; first name, Susie.
I was fourteen when I was murdered on December 6, 1973."— Susie Salmon: The Lovely Bones
Characters In "The Lovely Bones"
Lovely Bones characters
Susie Salmon - a 14-year-old girl who is raped and murdered by her neighbour Mr Harvey. Susie watches the lives of her friends and family and narrates the events of the novel from her own version of heaven.
Jack Salmon - Susie's father, who works for an insurance agency in Pennsylvania.
Abigail Salmon - Susie's mother. She seems to resent her family as her responsibilities to them have prevented her from fulfilling her own dreams and ambitions. She eventually has an affair with Len Fenerman, the detective who investigates Susie's disappearance.
Lindsey Salmon - Susie's younger sister.
Buckley Salmon - Susie's brother, who is four years old at the time of her disappearance. Buckley is sometimes able to "see" Susie after her death.
Grandma Lynn - Susie's grandmother. Lynn comes to live with Susie's father Jack to help him look after Lindsey and Buckley after Susie's mother leaves home.
George Harvey - the Salmons' neighbour. He is a serial killer who has killed several other girls as well as Susie. Eventually Susie's father starts to suspect that Harvey is connected with Susie's disappearance, although he has no proof and Susie's body is never discovered. Harvey leaves town to continue his murderous exploits elsewhere. Susie watches him as well as her friends and family.
Ruth Connors - an acquaintance of Susie's who has psychic abilities. As Susie dies, her spirit touches Ruth as she leaves the earth. Ruth becomes fascinated with Susie, despite hardly having known her while she was alive. Her psychic abilities develop and she devotes her life to writing about the visions of the dead people she sees.
Ray Singh - Susie's "boyfriend". Their relationship was in the very early stages when Susie died and Ray was the first and only boy Susie ever kissed. Ray is initially suspected of murdering Susie but proves his alibi for the time of her disappearance. He later becomes friends with Ruth due to her fascination with Susie and Susie "possess" Ruth in order to say goodbye to Ray.
Ruana Singh - Ray's mother. Neighbour and later friend of Susie's mother Abigail.
Samuel Heckler - Lindsey's boyfriend and eventual husband.
Hal Heckler - Sam's older brother who runs a motorcycle repair shop.
Len Fenerman - the police detective in charge of investigating Susie's disappearance. He and Susie's mother Abigail, have an affair.
Clarissa - Susie's best friend on Earth.
Holly - Susie's best friend and roommate in heaven.
Franny, Susie and Holly's guide and mentor in heaven.
Holiday, Susie's dog.
"What I think was hardest for me to realize was that he had tried each time to stop himself. He had killed animals, taking lesser lives to keep from killing a child."— Susie Salmon: The Lovely Bones
The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold is available from Amazon.com
Why I Liked The Lovely Bones!
My review of The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold
I first heard of The Lovely Bones when I heard two colleagues talking about it. To be precise, they were raving about it!
Rather than wait to borrow their copy, I bought my own and read it from cover to cover in one sitting.
The plot revolves around a murder victim, a teenage girl called Susie Salmon. Susie tells the story of her life, death and the aftermath, from her own version of "heaven".
Susie is a likable character and she is able to follow the lives of her family, friends and even her murderer from a "fly-on-the-wall" perspective which allows her to be a silent witness to both their actions and their hidden emotions. She also has to come to terms with her new existence in a kind of "heavenly reception area" which she shares with another recently deceased girl. Both girls are under the guidance of a mentor who is there to help them come to terms with what has happened in their own way and in their own time before they themselves move on onto whatever comes next for them .
What I liked was the way in which Alice Sebold (a rape victim herself), used her own experience of a traumatic event to weave a complex tale about how life changing events affect not only the victim but those around them. She manages to do this without resorting to either sensationalism or over-doing the sentimentality aspect. The result is a bittersweet tale of what might have been for Susie and those who care for her. They are all forced by circumstance to undergo an individual journey which eventually takes each of them to the same place - the realisation of the need to accept that what has happened has happened and cannot be changed and that they all have to move on, no matter how hard that seems.
Susie's rape and murder is brutal. Her body is never found, so her family is left to endure perpetual hope mixed with pain and grief at her loss and the fact that they never really obtain "closure". Susie's murderer is a serial killer who has evaded detection successfully and thinks he is beyond the reach of justice and he coolly watches on the sidelines as her family and friends are torn apart.
Bad things happen in "The Lovely Bones" - things that make the reader angry and sad, yet there's more to the story than "just" Susie's terrible death and the devastation caused by it. The themes that run through the book are of love and hope and the overall feel of the story is a positive one.
After I read The Lovely Bones, I found myself thinking a lot about all sorts of things - missed opportunities, relationships that went wrong, how we can so easily take people in our lives for granted because we assume they'll always be there, what happens when we die...so many things...and to me, a story that manages to make people THINK is a good one!
The Lovely Bones is not going to be everyone's cup of tea though, but on the whole Alice Sebold has written a good tale that will engage the majority of it's readers. It's by no means a piece of classic literature, but I don't think it was ever intended to be, despite all the hype!
The Lovely Bones is an interesting read and I suspect that it's the type of book that polarises opinion - people either love it or hate it, with not many in the middle!
Personally speaking, I loved it!
"I loved Ruth on those mornings . . . we were born to keep each other company. Odd girls who had found each other in the strangest way - in the shiver she had felt when I passed."— Susie Salmon: The Lovely Bones
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"When the dead are done with the living, the living can go on to other things," Franny said.
"What about the dead?" I asked. "Where do we go?"— Susie and Franny: The Lovely Bones
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The Lovely Bones - Worth All The Hype?
A good read
The Lovely Bones Film (2009)
The Movie Version of The Lovely Bones
Directed by Peter Jackson, The Lovely Bones film was released in late 2009.
Saoirse Ronan as Susie Salmon
Mark Wahlberg as Jack Salmon
Rachel Weisz as Abigail Salmon
Susan Sarandon as Grandma Lyn
Carolyn Dando as Ruth Connors
Reece Ritchie as Ray Singh
Nikki SooHoo as Holly
Stanley Tucci as George Harvey