The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold
I have been debating whether or not to read The Lovely Bones for quite some time.
On one hand, every time I opened my Amazon Kindle page, there it was–on the best sellers’ page, staring at me, reminding me that I hadn’t had the courage to approach it.
Perhaps it’s because, as I’ve aged I’ve become more emotionally vulnerable. Perhaps it’s because I have my own children who are very close to the age of the child around whose murder the story revolves.
Perhaps it’s because I was very close to a child who was viciously and savagely murdered. Whatever the case, I was hesitant. For whatever reason, yesterday I screwed my courage to the sticking point, downloaded the book and warily began to read.
I was immediately impressed with the voice created by Sebold. On one hand, Suzie is a vulnerable teenager, naïve in spite of her experience.
On the other hand, however, she is a wise old soul, able to gaze into the heart of those to whom she was closest in life and intuitively understand their struggle to come to terms with her death. I appreciated the fact that Sebold didn’t limit the vocabulary she utilized in an effort to make Suzie more believable.
Instead, she is the consummate wordsmith, using complicated grammatical structures to create a poetic faith that I never once questioned. Even when describing the brutual and violent rape that begins this story, the language remains pure.
We are somehow permitted to experience the savagery from a front row seat, but we do so wrapped in a comforter of down–safe and secure in the fact that if we make it through these pages, we will be rewarded with a rich and somehow “settling” story.
It was this sense of security that carried me through Suzie’s horror in spite of the real tears I shed in the process.Suzie’s story is told from her position high in her heaven, looking down upon those with whom she had shared her life–classmates, teachers, family and friends.
The readers know from very beginning who murdered Suzie, but only we and Suzie are privy to that information. While her father may have his suspicions, no irrefutable evidence exists which points to the person who took her life.
Suzie’s heaven is a “customized” experience, full of the things in life she loved or longed for, save the people themselves. As she watches the world below her continue to revolve, her “counselor” gently guides her through the journey, offering obscure and seemingly ambiguous advice.
Shades of melancholy tinge the experience, and we become fellow voyeurs. We watch Suzie’s sister come of age and mature; we follow her mother as she courts adultery in an attempt to escape her pain; we sit with her friends as they mourn Suzie and at the same time find themselves.
This was by no means an “easy” read. It produced a heaviness that remains deep within me today, though I think I knew before I started the book that this would be the case. The ending was a bit contrived, and I hated the fact that some threads were left hanging.
I suppose after all of the sadness, I wanted–actually LONGED for–some type of retribution for Suzie that transcended the pain her death had caused. I wanted the ultimate revenge, and I wanted that revenge to be a form of closure for all involved–most especially for her father.
If you’re looking for a light book to pass the time, this probably isn’t the best choice.
If, however, you’re looking for an insightful, thought-provoking read that will stay with you long after you’ve finished the last page, this one is a must.