"I had taken this time to fall in love instead–in love with the sort of helplessness I had not felt in death–the helplessness of being alive, the dark bright pity of being human–feeling as you went, groping in corners and opening your arms to light–all of it part of navigating the unknown."
One of my friends does not read unless it’s required for something. Insane, I know. When she recommended a book that she’d read on her own time I figured that the author must really be amazing. After finishing The Lovely Bones, I’d have to say that I was right and that Sebold does indeed meet Amazing Author criteria.
The novel opens with our naive fourteen-year-old main character Susie Salmon being raped and murdered by a neighbor, a strange man who builds doll houses for a living. From the grave, we follow Susie up to Heaven. In the novel, Heaven is of the What Dreams May Come variety, where you create your own surroundings. People who desire similar things share your Heaven with you, and this is how you make friends in the afterlife. (There was also not a single mention of God anywhere, which bothered me a bit, even though this Heaven is obviously not Biblically based.) Heaven also offers intake counselors to help you get situated and a view of Earth so that you can check in on your loved ones. The majority of the book, Susie is watching what’s happening to her family and friends while their lives move on without her.
Back on Earth there is the lonely Ruth, the girl Susie’s soul brushed past after dying, who takes up an interest in the paranormal. Ray, the boy who gave Susie her first kiss and left her love notes. Susie’s sister. The escapist mother, the devoted father, the brother too young to understand. It’s hard not to get attached to the characters and root for them or argue with them the same way Susie does from her perch up above. During certain parts of the book, Susie wills herself down to Earth to comfort or help the people that she loves which sometimes only does the opposite and hurts them. The most haunting thing about the book (no pun intended) is that Susie is also watching her killer in his attempts to cover his tracks and trying to understand what made him who he is. While this is more a book about the human experience and coping than it is any kind of thriller, some of the passages about Mr. Harvey gave me chills.
The Lovely Bones is beautiful and simple and emotionally charged. I’m interested to read Sebold’s memoir Lucky. As Sebold is a survivor of rape, it was interesting to me that she chose to write about a young girl who did not survive and still allowed that character a voice.