Book: The Lovely Bones
Author: Alice Sebold
Genre: Fiction/Slice of Life/Thriller/Mystery/Paranormal/Spiritual/Crime
Summary (from back of Little, Brown edition): “My name was Salmon, like the fish; first name, Susie. I was fourteen when I was murdered on December 6, 1973.” So begins the story of Susie Salmon, who is adjusting to her new home in heaven, a place that is not all what she expected, even as she is watching life on earth continue without her - her friends trading rumors about her disappearance, her killer trying to cover his tracks, her grief-stricken family unraveling. Out of unspeakable tragedy and loss, The Lovely Bones succeeds, miraculously, in building a tale filled with hope, humor, suspense, even joy. - Little, Brown 2009.
So, again, I apologize for the delay in posting this. Admittedly, I finished this book back in January, but my last semester of college really took up my time. Now that I've graduated, I shouldn't have any trouble putting up reviews from now on. I have a huge pile still waiting for me, so I'm eager to begin reading again. This review might not be up to my usual standards since I finished this book several months ago, but I'll do my best.
I know this book was fairly popular a few years ago, but I'll still try and keep spoilers to a minimum for those of you who haven't read it yet.
After reading this book, I talked to a few people who had read or, in their words, "tried" to read the book. The first chapter is really the testing point. For many of the people I talked to, the first chapter was too much for them. I have to say, I agree with them. It's not that I haven't read these kinds of scenes before, but never with these specifics and never with so much detail. I felt horrible afterwards and I knew that if I was ever going to pick up the book again, I had to keep reading. (There was also the fact that I had chosen to start reading this before going to bed and I didn't feel like having nightmares, so I kept going.) I kept reading and, though I did have some breaks from reading it, I finished it.
What did I like about the book? The plot was well done. It was very original in my opinion. It did seem to move a bit slowly at times, but never enough for me to actively complain about. Sebold's concept of heaven was interesting to read about and examine. I could picture the settings and people very well. The plot flowed well, despite the above mentioned slow times, and I never thought it was choppy or didn't work. I'll address my one complaint with the prose later.
My favorite characters were Ruth, Grandma Lynn, and Ray. Ruth, to me, was the most interesting character in the entire book, and yet so little was said about her. Her character reminds me of the people in life who, to others, seem like they don't have much to offer or say when really, they have silently spoken volumes. I was entranced with her view of the world and the ideas she had about it. I wasn't quite sure whether she had a girl crush on Susie, was in love with her, or was just fascinated by her. It doesn't really matter to me whether or not Ruth was a lesbian. From what I remember immediately after reading it, I thought Ruth was more asexual than anything else. I especially loved her moment near the end of the book where her hopes and dreams finally come to a kind of fruition and I felt really happy for her.
Grandma Lynn was fantastic. Even with all of her failings, she was the one bringing reality back to everyone's lives. She inserts herself into a failing family and tries to lessen the blows a bit. I think she's much more forgiving towards Susie's mom than she really should be, but I'll get to that later.
As for Ray, I fell in love with him. I don't know if it was his characterization or his description or a mix, but I just fell for this boy. Susie's narration, I think, makes you fall in love with him. He just seems like such a sweet boy and, later on, a gorgeous, confused, but devoted man that you would want to be either your best friend or your husband. Every scene he was in, I adored.
Now, for the things I didn't like. I'm sorry, but, as beautiful as the prose was, I don't think it fit Susie at all. She's fourteen years old! She sounds like a sixty year old woman in a fourteen year old body! Now, don't get me wrong, I don't think that fourteen year olds necessarily can't talk like that. I'm sure there are some teenagers out there who have thoughts similar to hers when analyzing things in life, but, it just doesn't sound believable! Making it more personal, I started reading more classic literature when I was thirteen-fourteen years old, but I never really thought about or analyzed the world like that before. I think it takes years of life experience to be able to think and describe people, places, events, and feelings in that manner. I know, I know, Susie is technically in heaven now where time doesn't matter, but that still doesn't really excuse her thought process! That would mean she'd have to have thought like that before she died! Unless she's a prodigy of some kind, I just can't see the more eloquent, flowery prose as that of a fourteen year old girl. I just can't. She doesn't seem like a fourteen year old and, for the majority of the novel, despite being dead, that's what she is. Making the prose more age related would have suspended my disbelief a bit more.
Okay, now, the only character I truly didn't like was Susie's mom. I'm sorry, but what she did was unforgivable in my opinion. I know there are different ways of coping with your grief and I know that the reasoning behind her actions goes deeper than Susie's death, but I really cannot sympathize with her. I hated almost every scene she was in during the middle of the story and I felt disgusted after reading the scenes. I'm sure part of the reason I don't like her and what she does is my own upbringing and personal opinions, but something just grates at me whenever I read her scenes. I do think Grandma Lynn was too easy on her. I'm sure she didn't want to get involved in her daughter's problems, seeing as her daughter is a fully grown woman and can make her own decisions, but I still would've liked to see her chide her daughter for doing the things she does. Oh well. Not every character is supposed to be likeable anyway.
Other than that, I really don't have much else to say about the book. (Read: I don't remember much else having finished it back in January.) I can understand why it was such a big hit. The prose is indeed beautiful and the story is touching in its own ways. I don't think it was particularly life changing or mind blowing for me in any way, but I still enjoyed it for what it was.
In all, I give The Lovely Bones an A-.
Please remember to support the author by buying the book from a bookstore, online, or borrowing it from the library or a friend.
I'm really looking forward to reading more and writing more reviews so please look forward to those!