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The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold – Wow

June 24, 2011
The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold

On her way home from school on a snowy December day in 1973, 14-year-old Susie Salmon (like the fish) is lured into a makeshift underground den in a cornfield and brutally raped and murdered, the latest victim of a serial killer–the man she knew as her neighbor, Mr. Harvey.

Alice Sebolds haunting and heartbreaking debut novel, The Lovely Bones, unfolds from heaven, where life is a perpetual yesterday and where Susie narrates and keeps watch over her grieving family and friends, as well as her brazen killer and the sad detective working on her case. As Sebold fashions it, everyone has his or her own version of heaven. Susies resembles the athletic fields and landscape of a suburban high school: a heaven of her simplest dreams, where there were no teachers…. We never had to go inside except for art class…. The boys did not pinch our backsides or tell us we smelled; our textbooks were Seventeen and Glamour and Vogue.

The Lovely Bones works as an odd yet affecting coming-of-age story. Susie struggles to accept her death while still clinging to the lost world of the living, following her familys dramas over the years like an episode of My So-Called Afterlife. Her family disintegrates in their grief: her father becomes determined to find her killer, her mother withdraws, her little brother Buckley attempts to make sense of the new hole in his family, and her younger sister Lindsey moves through the milestone events of her teenage and young adult years with Susie riding spiritual shotgun. Random acts and missed opportunities run throughout the book–Susie recalls her sole kiss with a boy on Earth as like an accident–a beautiful gasoline rainbow. Though sentimental at times, The Lovely Bones is a moving exploration of loss and mourning that ultimately puts its faith in the living and that is made even more powerful by a cast of convincing characters. Sebold orchestrates a big finish, and though things tend to wrap up a little too well for everyone in the end, one can only imagine (or hope) that heaven is indeed a place filled with such happy endings. –Brad Thomas Parsons

You know I get it, McGrath, I do understand why you hated Alice Sebold’s masterpiece The Lovely Bones. Most of my reviews don’t personally go after another review but this time I just had to take exception. In the one star review entitled “What they read in hell?” I would like to counter argue each point he makes with a valid point of my own. I believe that most great novels in the world are either loved or hated. Most of the in between novels are just forgotten…and everyone knows the novels that just plain suck. It’s the books that trigger fierce debate, such as masterpieces like Uncle Tom Cabin, Of Mice and Men or The Lord of the Flies and numerous others. Depending on your own personal beliefs, The Lovely Bones is such a novel. I believe over time it will endure and become another classic in modern American literature.

The first thing McGrath says in his review is: the book is sentimental and unoriginal. He needs to keep in mind that this is told from the point of view of a young teen girl that has just been murdered. Of course she is going to miss her family and many memories are going to be shared. This book at times is dark and brutal and at other times light and optimistic. It takes us through whole gauntlet of emotions. Be warned, this book will drain you. This completely original character has just gone through puberty where emotions run high in adolescents. She was killed in a traumatic way which only adds to her pain inside. Despite her pain, this is not a character that asks for our pity or wants it. She is likeable, interesting and complex. I found this book remarkably straight forward and unsentimental at times. I don’t think it’s possible for you to put yourself in the mind of a 14 year old but somehow I really felt as if I knew her by the end and she became very real for me.

McGrath makes another joke about how smart all the characters all are, the teen ones anyway. One of the aspects of this book is that it’s trying to make us understand that sometimes children with their innocence and lack of cynicism can be more brave and smart at times than even adults can be.
He complained about the murderer being cold, lonely and single. Duh. I think a lot of pedophiles are that way and I felt the savage evil beast he was just as vividly as any villain I have ever encountered. While his death might be a bit unrealistic, this is a fantasy reality story narrated by a dead girl in heaven. The readers deserved a just end for him after all his horrendous acts, but the author cleverly gave us an ending for him we didn’t expect. This book is not for everybody, of course, but I thought the fantasy elements in the novel were melancholy and stunning, mixing horrific everyday life tragedy with the spiritually sublime elements of the afterlife with ease and power.

McGrath states that the police are very diligent but just can’t seem to figure out what is going on with the investigation. First off, how intelligent are the detectives when a father’s instinct turns out to be correct and during the most pivotal moment in the investigation the detective commits a despicable act which lets the murderer walk free because of his absence. The reader needs to keep in mind the time line of the story when they read this book. This story took place in the 70’s. There was no CSI back then on the murder scene to investigate the forensic evidence found. Back then without cold hard proof you had nothing. A story like this would not be realistic thirty years later in today’s world. And besides, the detective was an unfocused character and ultimately a failure. That is part of Sebold’s story. Does McGrath think that every missing girl murder back in the 70’s was solved? I’m eerily sure that there were cases pretty much just like this back then that didn’t get solved either. I didn’t find the investigation unrealistic at all, even though the core of this book is really about the unraveling of Susie’s family in the wake of the murder. Also, the narrator is a voyeur, so in hindsight everything seems obvious to us because we are told the tale by the all knowing.

Finally, and this is not McGraths complaint but it is the novels most mentioned and controversial point. In her brief moments on earth, Susie Salmon chooses to have sex with her crush rather than do something important. Many people wonder why a girl that has been assaulted would even think about something like that with her precious moments left. This is only my opinion on why it works but I can understand some skepticism about it. This is a very unusual scene that bothered me at first but the more I thought about it, the more I realized why it was there and that it needed to be. Through the whole ordeal, Susie had been looking down on her family. She saw her mother’s adultery. Her sister’s loss of virginity. And Susie herself had sex in the cruelest way possible. I think part of her wanted redemption from that act, so she wouldn’t always view that act with such sadness and disgust. I can understand why in all her pain she would want a brief moment of pleasure. She saw her mother do it and her sister too. Why didn’t she go warn someone? Well, let’s be realistic, most people would think she was crazy if she did that and in the end it might scare and hurt her family more than comfort them. Her father had already gotten in trouble previously for making accusations. And why didn’t she help someone discover the evidence she needed to convict her killer? Because I think if you were raped you wouldn’t want to return to the lair it happened and risk running into your murderer again and then possibly getting your friend raped and murdered in the process because it wasn’t your own body you were using. That’s why she didn’t go back. Instead, she had a selfish moment for herself…and didn’t she deserve it? Shouldn’t we just be happy she got to experience some final moment joy, instead of a probable failure she might have caused had she went to the authorities or her family? Susie was smart and she had thought out all the consequences carefully in her mind before she made this decision.

If McGrath ever does end up reading my counter argument, I hope he knows I mean no hard feelings by it. It’s just one persons opinion against another’s. This book is one of the best novels ever written; sure to make my top ten list. It’s that good. To anyone reading this review, I encourage you to buy this book and form your own opinion on it..The Lovely Bones is certain to either leave you feeling terrible like McGrath or spellbound and overcome with emotion like I was.

Grade: A

For More 5 Star Reviews and The Lowest Price Visit:
The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold


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