Jan 07

The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold

Alice Sebold’s 2002 novel depicts the visions and feelings of a 14 year old girl, Susie Salmon, who is brutally raped and murdered in Pennsylvania. It is a coming of age story where the principal character watches from her own heaven as her family and friends deal with her loss while she simultaneously comes to terms with her own death. Susie narrates as she watches her family torn apart by the tragedy and envies the life of friends she left behind.  The novel received critical acclaim in 2002 and became an instant bestseller.  The first time I checked the book’s synopsis, I thought it was a book similar to Mitch Albom’s 5 People You Meet in Heaven or a touching story that deals with the joys and pains of family life.  After reading the first few pages, I realized it was altogether a different story from the one I had anticipated it to be. The horror of Susie’s death touched me in a different way.

What is different from the book is that it did not prepare me for the violence of her death because of the casual manner that Susie narrated her story.  In the first few pages, I did not realize that her death was in any way brutal.  Even while she narrated her ordeal, it sounded like a normal tragedy.  But the pictures in my mind created by her words did not match the calmness of Susie.  It made me grateful that I had 3 sons and no daughter.  If I did have any daughter, I probably would have never allowed her to walk alone after reading the novel.  No 14-year old should have to go through what she did.  I can almost imagine the suffering her parents felt . . . the panic . . . the disbelief . . . the failure.

More than the tragedy of her rape and death, I felt the loss of her youth, the opportunities and experiences she would never have.  This you would feel as she watches her friends grow up and while she helplessly looked on as her family was torn apart slowly.  The book does not take into account any religious belief even while it describes Susies afterlife.  Susie merely existed in a world different from ours.  She did get a chance to live an adult life when she was transferred into Ruth’s body before the end of the book.  But even that was shortlived.  Only one thing was certain — Susie was dead and she missed out on a life robbed by a sick, lonely man.

Despite the tragedy, it was difficult for me to put down the book.  There was no browsing nor skipping of other parts.  I read every word on the book as I tried to understand all of Susie’s visions and feelings.  This is definitely a book I will always remember.

Interestingly enough, Peter Jackson (director of the Lord of the Rings trilogy) bought the rights for the movie production of the book and is currently on location doing the film.  Peter Jackson is director and scriptwriter while Susie Salmon will be played by Saoirse Ronan (Izzie in “I Could Never be Your Woman”).  Jack and Abigail Salmon will be played by Mark Wahlberg and Rachel Weisz as Susie’s distraught parents.  The film is scheduled for release in March 2009.

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