The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold
ebook, 328 pages, Published August 7th 2002 by Little Brown and Company (first published July 3rd 2002)
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.
S3: E21 Emily is still irritated with Lorelai for paying back the loan for Rory's schooling, which deems Friday Night Dinner as a now voluntary weekly gathering to which Emily receives as an offense. Rory meets Emily at her grandparent's house after school to help pick Emily's attire for Chilton's graduation. Lorelai arrives to collect Rory from Hartford, wherein Lorelai and Emily interact in a verbal jumping of hoops regarding their seeing each other.
EMILY: Lorelai, do not get dramatic. Dinner is not ready, and even if it was, I would still not be able to invite you to stay because your father and I have plans tonight. We are eating quickly and then leaving.
LORELAI: To go where?
EMILY: The Thompsons.
LORELAI: For what?
EMILY: Book club.
LORELAI: What book?
EMILY: Lovely Bones.
LORELAI: Did you like it?
EMILY: It's not my taste but I respect the attempt.
LORELAI: Now I know where I get it from.
Emily stays current with the times and is particularly aware of any topic surrounding arts and culture. So we know that Emily is knowledgable to any topic of interest and will have heard of Sebold's novel featured on the New York Times Best Sellers list. She encourages this behavior so that a conversation may be carried in social gatherings without a lull. Emily says in S7: E3, "My little trick? Think of things in the middle three sections of the Sunday New York Times. "Travel", "Arts & Leisure", "Sunday Styles", and forget the rest of the paper exists." She uses this knowledge, much like Lorelai, to aid her in quick-witted comebacks.
Interestingly enough, The Lovely Bones centers around a family continuing on with their lives and rebuilding its foundation after the disappearance of their daughter. Without context and from the book's placement in this episode alone, we can infer that Emily is struggling with the idea of losing her daughter for a second time and having to reconstruct her life again if Lorelai chooses to return to a life without them, which she is very well considering here.
"Because horror on Earth is real and it is every day. It is like a flower or like the sun; it cannot be contained." - page 186
"When was it all right to let go not only of the dead but of the living—to learn to accept?" - page 306
"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 earth 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." - page 320
The book's layout is set as a backward layered mystery. Susie, the victim, recounts her murder within the first two chapters and slowly recounts the detail of what happened. Initially, you won't know who the killer is, you'll be on the edge of your seat hoping the best for the victim's family and their own developments after the murder, and you'll live in the suspense of if or when the killer will be caught. I read it so quickly because I couldn't stop page-turning, and I did have a bit of trouble sleeping due to certain high-anxiety scenes.
WHAT THE WHAT?:
Alice Sebold shared a similarly horrific experience with the main character in the novel and at a location where another girl had been murdered and dismembered a year prior to Sebold's own violent attack. She has said that she could not personally process what happened to her and later enrolled in a writing course, where her writing would eventually become this book. Combining these events poured out of Sebold where she wrote continually and without stop until she took a necessary personal pause to write Lucky, a memoir of her own rape, to be able to complete and finish Susie's story.
CARO'S RATING: 2 of 5 STARS
My biggest qualm that I have with the book is Susie's embodiment of Ruth and their spiritual power-struggle. Susie pushes her way into Ruth's body, which Ruth fights to keep control of and then eventually submits to the other entity's control. This was a parallel to Susie's own rape in the book, and I thought poor judgment to represent the ghost's rape as a spiritual raping of the girl. Susie uses Ruth's body in a way to process her own sexual trauma through the way of a physical experience that poor Ruth doesn't have any control over. That is precisely rape, but was that the entire point Sebold was trying to make?
I feel as if I cannot put a rating on this book, because I cannot separate the novel from the accounts of why it needed to be written. My heart truly breaks knowing that this is somewhat autobiographical, if only in the semblance of experiencing the same type of violence. I had seen the movie years ago and remembered the aftermath of the crime and the existence of Susie's heaven, so I expected a more detailed version of the movie. However, I felt a weird sense of obsession with sexualizing youth, pre-adolescence, and puberty that wasn't coming solely from the perpetrator, and it was grotesque to me in the nature that it was written. I now understand by looking into the backstory of the book, that the author was fighting her own demons and using her writing to explore and process her own life's events, explaining the underlying energy I felt in the writing. I will always support an author using their writing as an outlet, but much like Emily, "it's not my taste, but I respect the attempt."
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