“The Lovely Bones,” by Alice Sebold is a beautifully written drama. This was a difficult piece of work to write well. Child rape and murder was not an easy subject for the author to base the novel on. The unique approach Sebold took to writing this story makes it not just bearable to read, but a rewarding experience.
The Lovely Bones centers on the death of Susie Salmon and how it affects her friends and family through the years. Susie is brutally murdered early in the novel which takes place in the 1970’s. The era is an important detail. Child rapists and killers weren’t the criminal phenomena back then as they are now. This gives the circumstances to Susie’s death credibility. Again, praise needs to be given to the author for expressing the horror Susie faces without crossing over into the grotesque.
The story also avoids the hackneyed “angry spirit searching for its murderer” milieu. Susie is watching her family from heaven and she doesn’t exhibit any overt signs of unrest. Though there is the suspense of a murder investigation and the flight of Susie’s killer, the story is far from a crime drama. Sebold’s tale focuses instead on how the people who knew Susie change after her death.
In heavy detail the reader is shown how absolutely devastating the murder is to the Salmon family. At times you can almost visualize yourself seated amongst the grieving family, feeling the intense pain of their loss. This is both a detrimental and positive thing. A large portion of the novel deals with the grieving process and this demands an emotional endurance from the reader they may not have expected.
I can only say that the reward for reading The Lovely Bones is well worth the effort. Sebold takes what is now an almost everyday tragedy and makes it into a worthy story. If you finish the novel or find yourself faltering please read the “Words To Live By,” interview between Alice Sebold and David Mehegan of the Boston Globe.