Sonderbooks Book Reviews by Sondra Eklund

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*****= An all-time favorite
****  = Outstanding
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****The Lovely Bones

by Alice Sebold

Reviewed December 7, 2002.
A Sonderbooks' Best Book of 2002 (#3, Fiction)
Little, Brown and Company, Boston, 2002.  328 pages.
Available at Sembach Library (F SEB).

We had a large number of customers asking about this book even before we had a copy at the library.  I finally got a chance to read it, and the fame is well-deserved.  I started reading early in the evening and took breaks to say good night to my family, but didn’t end up stopping until I finished at one in the morning.

This story is quite out of the ordinary.  It begins with thirteen-year-old Susie Salmon talking to us from “her” heaven.  She has been horribly raped and murdered by a neighbor.  The rest of the book tells about Susie’s experiences as she closely watches her family and friends.  She tells us what happened (That part is awful but compelling.) and we wonder if the killer will get away with it.

We watch her family along with Susie as they finally realize that she is truly dead.  Her parents draw away from each other.  Her sister tries to harden her heart and change her looks that remind everyone of Susie.  Her baby brother keeps asking where she is, and the family doesn’t know how to explain to him.  Then there is the girl whose arm Susie’s spirit brushed on her way to heaven.  And the boy who gave her a love poem the morning before she died.

The set-up brings new meaning to the words “omniscient narrator.”  Susie has fun using her new abilities to snoop, and she also shares memories that come up as she watches her family.

This story is sad, make no mistake about that.  Susie’s death was horrible and her family has trouble coping.  However,  Alice Sebold makes something beautiful out of the sad story, and we come away from the book appreciating life.

Now, you do have to set aside your own ideas of heaven.  There’s no such inconvenient being as God in Susie’s heaven.  It’s simply a place of wish-fulfillment.  I thought the Intake Counselor who helps Susie is a nice touch.  They don’t go anywhere near the question of where Susie’s killer will go when he dies, for example.

If you’re willing to set your theology aside to enjoy Susie’s viewpoint as a great storytelling device, then The Lovely Bones is an uplifting reading experience.

Reader comment:  Heidy gives this book 5 stars and says, "This is a real good book.  You'll love reading it SO much and you can't stop!"

Copyright © 2005 Sondra Eklund.  All rights reserved.

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