Book Review: The Lovely Bones

by Emily Hayes

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There’s nothing like a book that you love so much you cannot put down.  It’s the kind of book that you feel you are a part of; the kind of story that hooks you fast in within its suspense. Alice Sebold’s  The Lovely Bones is one of those books.

The story unravels into a twisted tale of a young girl and her family following a tragic and violent event.  Fourteen-year-old Susie Salmon was a nice with big dreams.  However, those dreams were crushed on December 6th, 1973 when her creepy older neighbor raped and violently murdered her, leaving her family, friends and loved ones devastated and confused. Why would anyone do this to the sweetest girl in the town?

Amongst this mystery, however, is also the story of a family struggling to recover from tragedy.  Susie’s father and little sister, Lindsey, are not about ready to let Susie go. They want to figure out what happened and they will stop at nothing. Although Susie’s father believes Mr. Harvey killed Susie, he has no proof. His obsession with finding proof draws him away from his wife who seems lost most days.

Lindsey is smart and brave, but fears kids at her school will see her as “Suzie’s sister,” and does not want that label or its subsequent sympathy. Her little brother Buckley, who is only four years old, struggles to determine the meaning of death and often asks when his sister will return. Susie, who is up in heaven observing her family and her previous world, is hurt by everyone’s sadness, and also frustrated that no one knows who killed her.

The novel is strongest in its first half, when its ghostly edge meets mystery on an accelerated and suspenseful journey to the truth.  Yet, the second half of the book slows and transforms into pure ghost story. Susie observes her loved ones getting older and growing up, and watches them make decisions and sees where their lives take them after a shared tragic event. While the story loses its intensity, you find yourself attached to the characters.  Susie, in particular, becomes extremely sympathetic throughout the novel, as she struggles with letting her earthly life go.  She is similarly reluctant to leave her family, and despite living in heaven, continues to follow their lives.

Suzie in heaven in the 2010 film.

The Lovely Bones received great praise and is a breakout success, topping the New York Times best seller list for over a year and receiving great reviews.  It was also recently made into a major motion picture directed by Peter Jackson and starring Saoirse Ronan, Mark Wahlberg, and Rachel Weisz.

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