Reviewed by Vera (Luxury Reading)
The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold hardly needs an introduction; I’ve heard raves about this novel ever since it first appeared in stores. Given its popularity, it’s no surprise that we’ll be seeing the words come to life when The Lovely Bones, the movie, is released on December 11th (I know I will be seeing it on opening day).
The book, or audio book in my case, opens with the death of the narrator, Susie Salmon. Walking home from school, 14-year old Susie is brutally murdered by her neighbor who artfully covers his tracks. Susie watches from heaven as her parents are told about an elbow found by a local dog, a hat, but no body. As she adjusts to or learns to tolerate her new surroundings, Susie’s family is stricken by grief and driven in different directions. Susie observes her mother’s undoing, her father’s relentless pursuit of the killer, her sister’s quite sorrow and her young brother’s slow understanding that she’s not coming back. She’s right there with them all and yet so far away, watching them change, begin to heal, grow old and grow up, as she remains forever the same.
The Lovely Bones is breathtakingly sad, and yet surprisingly uplifting. In the audio book, the flourishes of music at the end of chapters only added to heart wrenching tone of the novel. A few times, I found myself driving with tears in my eyes. On the other hand, I found Susie’s heaven to be a comforting idea. There are few people who haven’t wondered about life after death, and Sebold’s description of a heaven based on one’s needs and wants definitely gave me a lot to think about.
Having listened to the audio of The Lovely Bones, I feel it is necessary to comment on the narration. The Lovely Bones is narrated by the author herself, which I thought was an interesting and different choice. At times, Sebold added the insight into the story that only an author could. Other times, her narration made it difficult to distinguish between the different characters and seemed somewhat unsuitable as the voice of the 14-year old Susie. I’ve heard from many listeners who enjoyed Sebold’s narration, so it’s a matter of personal preference.