Audiobook Review: The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold, narrated by the author

The Lovely Bones
Alice Sebold

Rating: 4 out of 5.

I’m trying to read a bunch of books that are set in Pennsylvania for a work event I’m hosting on March 24, so this week I listened to The Lovely Bones, narrated by the author. My book club read this when it was first published in 2002, so this is my second time around. In 2003, it won the American Booksellers Association Book of the Year Award for Adult Fiction. The 2009 film is directed Peter Jackson and stars Mark Wahlberg, Rachel Weisz, Susan Sarandon, Stanley Tucci, Michael Imperioli and Saoirse Ronan. You can watch the trailer here.

The story begins in 1973 and is set in Norristown, Pennsylvania, when Susie Salmon is fourteen. On a shortcut home through a cornfield, Susie’s neighbor, Mr. Harvey, lures her to a secret place where he rapes and murders her. Now in heaven, Susie tells the story of her death, including the investigation and how her family and friends struggle with their loss.

Although they’re in the same house, Susie’s parents, sister and brother suffer distinctly apart from one another. Her father, Jack, searches relentlessly for Susie’s killer. Her sister, Lindsey, just a year younger, pushes her mother and father away, and her toddler brother, Buckley, clings to Jack. What’s the most upsetting is how Susie’s mother, Abigail, withdraws from Jack and her children. Abigail’s mother, Lynn, has her own idea about how to save the family, and it might just work.

In heaven, Susie thinks of what might have been. Just days before her death, a boy named Ray Singh had kissed her and now the promise of her first romance is lost. And when Susie dies, her spirit brushes past a girl named Ruth, who will carry an uncertain feeling with her until Susie helps her understand the link between the living and the dead. Susie also talks about Mr. Harvey, his victims and his habits. She includes details about his childhood, not to absolve him, but to explain how he became a predator.

Jack continues to watch for a break and Detective Len Fenerman waits for leads, but the investigation stalls. Only the reader knows of Mr. Harvey’s actions and some clues that may come to light, offering hope that Mr. Harvey will be caught.

Although the story begins with a murder, its mostly about how a family copes with loss, how they lose each other and find new ways to reconnect and move on without Susie. Sebold also offers a hopeful explanation of what happens at death and how sprits might communicate with the living.

I liked this story, despite its depressing subject, because it shows how characters cope with loss and conflict. The supernatural element was interesting to me and fit well into the story. Although The Lovely Bones is not a new book, I think it’s still a good read and I recommend it to readers who like family stories about grief and loss.

Thanks for visiting – come back soon!

38 thoughts on “Audiobook Review: The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold, narrated by the author

    1. Hi Luccia, yes, I think that is a detraction, but the characters are good. I don’t like to read too many depressing things, though. Thanks for the visit and for commenting 🙂

  1. I read the book (at least most of it) years ago, when it came out because it was a prize winner and because it was set in Pennsylvania. I would give it 4 stars as well, Barbara.

      1. What’s funny is that I barely remembered what happened in the book, even though I’d read it before. I know that’s partly because of the time between (and age!). But I did like it – even though it sounds weird to say I liked a book about murder. The author wrote a second book, called The Almost Moon, a very dark novel about murder. The New York Times said it’s “so morally, emotionally and intellectually incoherent that it’s bound to become a best seller.” I don’t think I would be interested in that!

    1. Hi Books and Bakes – I get that. It’s a weird feeling to love a book that is dark. I’m glad I re-read it though because I had forgotten a lot about it. I think I will watch the movie soon – the trailer looks very good, although I have to admit I”m not a big Susan Sarandan fan!

    1. Hi Lynette – I understand – some books are just tough topics and not great to re-read. That said, I’m glad I did because I didn’t remember a lot about it. Thank you for reading and commenting 🙂

  2. I picked this up second hand a few weeks ago and its been sitting on my shelf since. I am so sure I will enjoy it when I can find the time to pick it up. Great review!

  3. I didn’t want to read the book when it came out – not my kind of subject matter. But somehow I was convinced I should (this was about a year after its publication). I’ll never forget WHEN and WHERE I read it, because I was returning home from a trip across the country and stranded on a plane in Chicago, which was grounded on the runway because of a snowstorm. For three hours. And I read the book and felt everything that each character felt, sitting in that hard plane seat. Several times I got too caught up in the book and wanted to toss it aside, but it was all I had to read on that stranded plane! A very good book that, like Lynette says, I don’t want to read again. But it stayed with me for a long time.

    1. Hi Pam – isn’t it interesting to think back about the impact books have had on us over the years – to remember exactly where we were when we read them? I understand you not wanting to re-read it. It was depressing and her second book, The Almost Moon sounds very dark. I feel also that way about Joyce Carol Oates. Her writing is so engrossing, but also disturbing. Hard to do. Thank you for sharing that! Hope you are doing well 🙂

      1. I actually love that books can place us exactly where we were when we read them. Which is why I am selective about the books that I read. Joyce Carol Oates’ novels disturb me so I pretty much stay away from them. I don’t think that makes me a good reader but it helps me love what I do read. ❤️

      2. Well we all have to strike a balance. Sometimes I feel a need to educate myself by reading authors I know are important influences, but then other times I just want to read a thriller!

      3. This is it, exactly. I can think of many “hard” books that ended up staying with me, influencing me, and teaching me, throughout my life. Richard Wright’s book are an example, as well as James Baldwin’s, in my early years of reading. Of course Toni Morrison books fit in there as well. SO hard to read, yet so important. Lately I had to re-read Lord of the Flies. Gawd, I dislike that book, but it’s “must read” for high school and although it stayed with me, I’m still trying to figure out if that’s good or not. ;-0

      4. That’s so interesting- I liked Lord of the Flies but I understand your comment. I haven’t read Richard Wright or any James Baldwin – I need to do that. I’m going to re-read Song of Solomon soon and I just started Rabbit, Run by John Updike. That is a harder book because every word seems to matter. I remember Song of Solomon being very difficult too.

    1. Hi Lisa – I was afraid it would be dated, but since it is set in the 1970s, it didn’t matter. I did think it was powerful and although dark, I felt it ended in a hopeful way. And the whole idea of heaven was nice. Thanks for stopping by 🙂

  4. Hi, Barbara – Thank you for highlighting another book that has long been on my list to read. In this case, I simply need to take a deep breath and become brave enough as I know despite the brilliant writing, the context is very depressing.

    1. Hi Donna. Yes, I understand that. I have heard that the movie is even better. That might be true. I watched the trailer and it has an engrossing supernatural feel to it. Thanks for stopping by and commenting. I hope you are having a nice weekend!

  5. Thanks for sharing this book, Barb. I haven’t read it because of the subject matter, although some elements sound intriguing. Maybe I’ll add it to my list. I’ll have to think about it. 🙂

    1. Hi Lauren – I understand your relunctance. I like to mix up heavy and light reading. The subject matter is tough, but the overall message is uplifting, IMO. Thanks for stopping by 🙂

      1. I do the same with heavy and light reading, Barb. And I’ll add this to my list. Another TBR with the lights on. 🤣🤣🤣

    1. I felt the same way, although I read a couple reviews of her next book and they were critical of her dark and depressing side. I actually thought The Lovely Bones was uplifting in a way. Thanks for reading my post 🙂

      1. Hi Jennifer – so sorry for the late response. For some reason your comment went into my spam! What’s up with that? I read that Alice Sebold was raped in college and her writings reflect elements of that experience. What did you think of her second book?

      2. Oh that’s good to know. I was hesitant to re-read The Lovely Bones because I’d forgotten there was a lot more to it than the murder. I’m glad I picked it up again.

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