Jan 20, 2010

The Lovely Bones

Alice Sebold
  • Paperback: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Back Bay Books; 1 Mti Rep edition (September 30, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0316044938
  • ISBN-13: 978-0316044936
  • Source: borrowed from a friend

A great friend of mine borrowed me this book last Wednesday. I read it the same evening (or better to say night during one of my insomnia attacks). And in these few days I was thinking about how I would phrase it in my review. The more time passed, the further I am from my first "OMG this book was so great!!!" attitude. Well, I still think it's great.I just needed some time to take a step back from the discrepancy between what I thought it would be, what other people told me it was and what, in the bottom line, it was for me.

People kept talking about only one aspect of the story-the monstrous murder of Lucy Salmon, her concept of Heaven and her guiding her father to her murderer. I didn't see the movie yet, but from what I've heard, the movie has that same issue.  Fewer people told me about the other aspect, the one that would have drawn me more to the story-her family coping with her death. That was something I was not prepared for. So, while the first left me a bit disappointed, this other level is stuck with me and I believe it will stay for a while longer.

"These were the lovely bones that had grown around my absence: the connections-sometimes tenuous, sometimes made at great cost, but often magnificent-that happened after I was gone. And I began to see things in a way that let me hold the world without me in it. The events that my death wrought were merely the bones of a body that would become whole at some unpredictable time in the future. The price of what I came to see as this miraculous body had been my life." p 320

First to say that I admire Alice's courage to tell the story from Susie's perspective. I've seen cases where this ended in disaster, but Alice did it with an unbelievable grace and dignity. It makes the fact that it's not so much about death as it is about those still living all the more interesting. Susie watches down on her family, on "the lovely bones" as they are trying to reason with her disappearance and death. It brought back many memories of those in my life who left too soon (but then-for us who stay behind it's always too soon). Yes, I cried. Yes, I felt like vomiting. I even smiled. All within the first few pages.

"I'm down here waiting; I'm up here watching." p 90

I don't have any complaints about the writing or the style. Susie's voice is authentic enough, and so are most of the characters. The aching part, and that's what I'm taking with me, is the pain of Susie's father for his child. For all the parents out there, you guys will know to appreciate Sebold's tenderness and subtle way of dealing with such a touchy subject. The mother I couldn't figure out. Throughout the book there's the atmosphere of her never even wanting Susie. And then she leaves the rest of the family. Seriously, I don't understand. Someone, please, help me out with that.

Here are some parts I marked while reading:

"Every day he got up. Before sleep wore off, he was who he used to be. Then, as his consciousness woke, it was as if poison seeped in. At first he couldn't even get up. He lay there under a heavy weight. But then, only movement could save him, and he moved and he moved and he moved, and no movement being enough to make up for it. The guilt on him, the hand of God pressing down on him, saying, 'You weren't there when your daughter needed you.' " p58

"There was our father, the heart we knew held all of us. Held us heavily and desperately, the door of his heart opening and closing with the rapidity of stops on an instrument, the quiet felt closures, the ghostly fingering, practice and practice and then, incredibly, sound and melody and warmth." p 134

One thing that still nags me is the relationship Susie-Ruth. It's obvious Ruth's there for the sake of Susie's regrets and unfulfilled dreams.Ruth doesn't seem to have much life of her own. Mostly, she is trying her best to be the voice of Susie.

"I grew to love Ruth on those mornings, feeling that in some way we could never explain on our opposite sides of the Inbetween, we were born to keep each other company. Odd girls who had found each other in the strangest way-in the shiver she had felt when I passed." p 79

If you haven't read this book or if you're planing to, make sure to learn something about Alice Sebold. She was a victim of a rapist who escaped death only by hair's breadth and described it in her memoir Lucky. Here I disagree with New Yorker's labeling Alive as 'terror-fixed'.

"When was it all right to let go not only of the death but of the living-to learn to accept?" p318 

Her latest novel, The Almost Moon, starts with "When all is said and done, killing my mother came easily." 
 Now, if that's not a "killer" first line...literally...

I don't know about you...but I'd like to believe that all those dear people who passed all too soon are in their own nice Heavens...it may not be perfect but...

"I wish you all a long and happy life." p328

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