4.5 stars overall / 5 stars audio narration (pitch perfect)
In the first chapter of this haunting novel, 14-year-old Susie Salmon looks down from heaven and describes the horrifying events of her murder. As time goes on, Susie continues her curious observations while her family struggles to cope with the pain of her death. Her younger sister grows tougher and more mature, her mother goes to desperate lengths to ease the suffering, and her father begins a perilous quest to bring the killer to justice.
Suspenseful, daring, and even humorous in just the right doses, The Lovely Bones is an utterly original and unforgettable tale. It transcends one family’s overwhelming grief to deliver an astonishing vision of hope and love.
** spoiler alert ** I really loved this book. It is such a unique approach to telling the story of a death (a murder), and it fleshes out a perspective that we often speculate about but don’t seem to talk about very often. What is heaven like? The story that Sebold gives us is touching and sweet and real. She allows her characters to feel and grieve and react in ways that seem expected and familiar, but she also allows us to see (and possibly understand) how Suzie Salmon copes with her death. What was unexpected (for me) is that she grieved too…and desperately missed her family…and, many times, wanted to go back.
If I had one gripe with Sebold, it was that gave us a Heaven devoid of God. What is the point, really, of existing infinitely, in Heaven, without God. All the elements were there in her story…except one…and it was something that, in the midst of connecting with this lovely story, perched in the back of my mind throughout.
In the end, the story coalesces in a way that is both satisfying and frustrating. Sebold does tie things up fairly neatly, which in this case seemed appropriate to me, and though I was satisfied that Mr. Harvey would no longer terrorize anyone else, I was frustrated that he wasn’t caught…and that his death (painful as it probably was), did not do justice to the torture he meted out during his lifetime. Sometimes, though, life is that same way, so in that respect, the ending of the story seems reflective of how capricious life is sometimes.