Review–The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold

The Lovely Bones
by Alice Sebold
Summary: The Lovely Bones is the story of a family devastated by a gruesome murder -- a murder recounted by the teenage victim. Upsetting, you say? Remarkably, first-time novelist Alice Sebold takes this difficult material and delivers a compelling and accomplished exploration of a fractured family's need for peace and closure.
The details of the crime are laid out in the first few pages: from her vantage point in heaven, Susie Salmon describes how she was confronted by the murderer one December afternoon on her way home from school. Lured into an underground hiding place, she was raped and killed. But what the reader knows, her family does not. Anxiously, we keep vigil with Susie, aching for her grieving family, desperate for the killer to be found and punished.
Sebold creates a heaven that's calm and comforting, a place whose residents can have whatever they enjoyed when they were alive -- and then some. But Susie isn't ready to release her hold on life just yet, and she intensely watches her family and friends as they struggle to cope with a reality in which she is no longer a part. To her great credit, Sebold has shaped one of the most loving and sympathetic fathers in contemporary literature.

Add to Goodreads

Source: I borrowed a paperback from a friend.


I really enjoyed The Lovely Bones. I saw the movie a long time ago and my friends have recommended this book to me a few times, but for some reason, I always avoided reading it. I’m glad my friend finally handed me her copy, because I liked the story a lot and it was much more in depth than I expected.

While the movie was a good adaptation, I think it only touched the surface of what the book was all about. However, I do think the movie had more of a direct point, whereas the book sort of lingered and followed the lives of Susie’s family without any real closure apart from acceptance. Still, I think I like the way the book told the story. It was more emotional to me and much more horrifying. Everything had more depth, more relationship, and more complication.

I loved the perspective and the writing in The Lovely Bones. It was beautiful and tragic watching the lives of the Salmon family unravel after Susie’s death. I enjoyed her perspective from her personal heaven looking down at the people who were part of her life. The book isn’t just about Susie’s death or watching her family cope or even getting justice. It’s about a lot of different elements about life and love and loss, living in the suburbs, families, etc. I also enjoyed the way the book explored the character of Mr. Harvey more in depth. I think the movie was too brief and much too kind to his character.

The Lovely Bones has mixed reviews, probably due to the hype about the book. It’s a shame, because I think the popularity of the novel had people picking it up when it just wasn’t for them. From the disturbing scene near the end to the writing style, people pick this book apart pretty badly and dismiss it as trash. I understand feeling like the author was showing off because certain types of prose certainly leave me feeling that way. I don’t feel like that was the case with this particular book, but I can see how it might be that way for some. I can also see how the hype could have left people feeling disappointed, which is common.

I don’t really understand what there is to hate about The Lovely Bones, but I can’t imagine why anyone would pick it up out of interest, suspend disbelief to enjoy the premise of Susie lingering about Earth and watching her family, and then take other scenes so literally. It’s just that if Susie occasionally appearing to friends and family as she watched over them wasn’t being interpreted as a haunting/horror story, then I wouldn’t classify the particular scene that everyone has issues with as possession. Instead, I was focusing on the emotional aspect of the whole thing, like what Susie’s presence to her family meant and what that particular scene meant for her. I know the logistics were a bit.. off.

I also don’t understand why anyone would read the first paragraph, chapter, or what have you, and continue to read it if the writing style was so awful/trashy/horrid. There is a certain kind of review/reviewer attitude that I tend to dismiss these days because I’ve stumbled upon so many gems that these book snobs would call trash. I’m not even sure what people like that actually enjoy reading, actually. But that’s a conversation for another day.

Overall, The Lovely Bones was a powerful story. I am glad I finally picked it up and read it. I definitely recommend it.