"In cooking, as in all the arts, simplicity is a sign of perfection." - Curnonsky

Monday, July 23, 2007

Book Review: The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold

The Great Readers of M's July Book Discussion, "The Lovely Bones" by Alice Sebold, was chosen by Kim.

"My name was Salmon, like the fish. First name, Susie. I was 14 when I was murdered on Dec. 6, 1973." First sentence of "The Lovely Bones" A powerful sentence. One that either makes you want to go on or toss the book to the other end of the room.

Fourteen year old Susie narrates from heaven. (A giant playground of swings.) She sees her mother and father mourning, breaking apart. Her sister pulling away from the world. But her little brother talks to her. She sees the murderer sitting in the dark...staring out the window towards the school-grounds.She watches her life go on...She watches people grow older as she should be. She holds on to earth.

Some of the images in 'Lovely Bones' are beautiful. Like when somebody dies Susie feels their soul brushing against her cheek...Or when the family dog dies Susie wonders if she'll see him in heaven and suddenly he runs up to her, full force, knocking her down.

This book is not just about pain and loss and the reality of abduction. It is about healing and finally, finally in the end...going on. The thought-provoking novel that is `The Lovely Bones' pokes and prods at the concept of life after death, but even more importantly, the lives that continue after a death.

The story introduces us to Susie Salmon, a 14 year old girl who is trapped in her childhood after being brutally raped and murdered by George Harvey, an unusual man who lives on her street. Susie narrates the story from her heaven, where she watches the day to day lives of the people who were most important to her, as they grapple with her murder and move on with their ever-changing lives and grow-up, something which Susie never had or will have the chance to do.

The book delves into the lives of her family and friends as they attempt to move on and the colossal effect her death has on them as they struggle to stay together. From one character's affair, to the unexpected arrival of an eccentric Grandmother, and the intriguing obsession a school acquaintance develops, the book explores the ways in which each character deals with the tragic loss. All this is explained through the eyes of a young girl watching those she most cared about live the life that she never would, making it an even more fascinating read.

It is about her watching her family's struggles as they try to move on, when she herself can't. As well as this is the ongoing sub-plot involving her killer, a disturbing neighbor, as he attempts to remain one step ahead of the police, and struggles to keep ahead of the Salmon family as Susie's sister and father determinedly pursue him refusing to sway in their belief that he is guilty. The story then looks at the depressing life that he brought on himself after he is forced to leave his home due to the suspicion of others.

But in spite of all this and the events that take place, the book does not have an entirely gloomy outlook, but rather displays the optimism, if at times naïve, of a 14 year old girl. Although the desperate longing for her family is always underlying, the book does not have the depressed demeanor about it that you might expect. `The Lovely Bones' is no piece of light reading, but rather a complex and deep examination of a family dealing with loss, and how it is viewed by a teenager, specifically the one who's life was cruelly taken.

It is a story about overcoming loss, despite how hard it is to do just that. Its extensive mixture of characters and its many minor story lines will intrigue and interest you to the end, as you can't help but get involved in the daily struggle that is their lives, as you put yourself in the position of the characters. In short-read it, or you're truly missing out.

No comments: