Tuesday, February 2, 2010

The Lovely Bones

Stones and bones,
Snow and frost,

Seeds and beans and polliwogs,

Paths and twigs, assorted kisses,

We all know who Susie misses...

"My name was Salmon, like the fish; first name, Susie. I was fourteen when I was murdered on December 6, 1973."

Heaven has become Susie's new home, a heaven where all her desires can become true as long as she understands why she wants them, and a heaven where everyone's heaven is different in its own way. And so starts Susie's story, and of how she watches her family back on Earth from her gazebo and of how she's powerless before its deteriorating state. As much as she would want, Susie cannot heal her father's deep wound for his lost child, nor prevent her mother from straying away from her family, nor soothe the pain her sister is locking deep inside her. Neither can she put the police or her father on the track of her murderer, Mr. Harvey, her neighbor, who has become and expert at putting an innocent face and covering his tracks. But Susie can watch. She watches, standing beside the living, how the tragedy of her disappearance and the search for her murderer unravels.

This book had me hooked since the first lines. Alice Sebold's novel is the kind of novel you cannot put down. Literally.

Susie's murder is no mystery, and it is announced and described in a blunt and honest way since the first pages of the book. It makes us realize that those women and girls that are murdered, those people just like us, had a life. Friends. A family. The Lovely Bones is the story of such family who lives through the tragic murder of their daughter/sister/child and told by the ghost of their girl watching from heaven.

It is a deep and heavy story presenting Susie's family who is trying to bring itself back together, not that it is an easy thing to do, mind you. Susie describes how each member of her family tries to live on, and how some, like her father who desperately tries to prove Mr. Harvey is the murderer, just cannot let it go, and how others, like her mother, simply don't want to hear any more and diverge farther away from what matters most.

The Lovely Bones is a very enjoyable book to read with its quick pace, lyrical feel and tragic nature. It's always Susie who narrates, but she turns around everyone so the story doesn't loose its interest. Sebold succeeded in turning the telling of a life that could be qualified as 'mundane' into something amazing and passionate, something so very true.

I felt very heart broken when Susie was watching everyone she knew grow old and go on with their lives. She never stopped watching them, though, and they never stopped thinking about her. I loved her dad. He was the perfect example of a parent who loves his child so deeply he just simply cannot let go. And then we have Mr. Harvey, who is a true murderer; he enjoys what he does.

Working with the after life can turn up to be very difficult. It's a theme that can be manipulated very easily but that has relatively a lot of impact on some readers and can sometimes bring controversy. The description of the 'heaven' in The Lovely Bones was left slightly blurred, unclear, maybe for that matter. The main focus was on earth and on what happened there, and so I didn't get enough of this heaven as much as I would have liked to. I think that it should have been more explored, more described. I wanted to see it impact more on Susie. I was disappointed to see that Holly, a friend Susie meets in heaven, was left very unsubscribed. We don't even get to know how she died.

Another thing that I disliked was Susie's nonchalant attitude right after she died. I mean, she has been raped and murdered and it seemed as if she didn't really stop to realize what had happened. She did mention a few times her remorse about not being able to grow up and live her life, but I felt as if she accepted her fate just a bit too quickly. She's still a very lovable character who, even if able to cope with her short life and sad ending quickly, harvests deep love for her family and friends and becomes a caring watcher.

I found the ending of the book somewhat... shocking. Not in a bad way, actually. It didn't end the way I thought it would, and after having finished the book and sat down, I realized that The Lovely Bones is not the story where we are sunk into the heavy search for a murderer, but the story about how life goes on after someone is gone and how wounds heal with time.

Finishing on that, this novel is a must read for young adults and beyond. It presents murder, blood, rape and lust in their true appalling natures, but also love, struggle, joy, and determination at their strongest. It's a reading most will devour in a few days, heck, even one.

The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold
Rating: 9,5/10

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