The Lovely Bones
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.
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