Desert Isle Keeper
The Lovely Bones
Susie Salmon, “like the fish,” is only fourteen years old when she is raped and murdered by a neighbor, her body never found. This may sound like the worst possible beginning for an uplifting story, but amazingly, Alice Sebold makes The Lovely Bones a compelling, haunting, and even humorous story.
This book would be unbearable to read if not for its twist, and what a twist it is. Susie tells the story as she looks down from heaven on her family, friends, and even her murderer, Mr. Harvey. Because heaven is whatever you want it to be, Susie’s heaven is the high school she never got to attend, complete with a gazebo and lots of dogs. Susie can have anything she wants, except “what I wanted most: Mr. Harvey dead and me living.”
Not surprisingly, Susie’s family has no idea how to deal with her loss. Susie’s mother copes with her sorrow by withdrawing into a world of regret over the things she gave up to become a wife and mother, while Susie’s father becomes obsessed with proving his suspicions of Mr. Harvey. Susie’s sister Lindsey suddenly must adjust to being “the dead girl’s sister,” while four-year-old Buckley tries to understand death in terms of a Monopoly game. The unexpected glue that holds the family together is brash, alcoholic Grandma Lynn. Susie marvels, “When I was alive, everything my grandmother did was bad. But an odd thing happened… She was, in all her obnoxious finery, dragging the light back in.”
Susie watches her world slowly adjust to life without her. She lives vicariously through Lindsey as she grows up and falls in love, and watches the friendship born out of tragedy that grows between Ray Singh, her almost-boyfriend, and Ruth Connors, the girl Susie’s soul brushed as she left the earth. But what will it take for Susie to let go of the world?
I loved the characters in this book. Flawed but sympathetic, they are truly good people trying to cope with something unimaginably evil. Best of all is Susie: smart, witty, angry without falling into self-pity, and funnier than you’d ever expect, she’s a heroine to love.
Sebold’s writing is absolutely gorgeous; some of the phrases still stay with me, like Susie’s description of her first and only kiss with Ray as “like an accident – a beautiful gasoline rainbow.” The plotting is also exceptional; small details become important a hundred pages later, and the ending intricately ties all the threads of the story together for a satisfying conclusion.
I can’t recommend The Lovely Bones highly enough. Despite the subject matter, it isn’t really a book about dying. It’s about living.