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February 25, 2017

Book Review || The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold

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I could not put Alice Sebold's 'The Lovely Bones' down. Literally. Thankfully I was ill this entire week and had ample opportunity to not put it down, and finding out what's become of Susie and her family and her killer became an itching need when I wasn't holding the book in my hand. This novel will break your heart and then smear some hope all over the bloody pieces.

Sebold's writing is difficult to describe: it feels a bit like when you're waking from a dream of being surrounded by butterflies' wings brushing your cheeks and you swear that, upon opening your eyes, the dusty scales from their wings are floating around catching the light when it's really just dust motes. This unique ability of placing the reader in two worlds at once is the most compelling part of this novel. Descriptions of the world around the characters is so whimsical yet feel so removed from history that nothing seems real, and this is the perfect metaphor for how it must feel for a family to suddenly and violently lose a loved one.

Through the use of Susie's ghost, every character becomes practically transparent - we know everything there is to know about their motivations and their history because Susie is now timeless. This is the perfect use of an omniscient narrator and I'm not certain I've ever come across one that has been so successful without being obtrusive.

Susie's death obviously has a profound effect on everyone who had her in their lives. Her father becomes obsessive, her mother escapes, her sister hardens her heart, her brother resents the loss of attention. She is never far in the thoughts of friends and family and perhaps it is this connection that allowed her to see so much and so purely into their hearts. What I liked the most about this situation was that there was no narrative judgment: Susie seemed to harbour nothing but unconditional love for those she observed and this is a wonderful thing to believe of our spirits when we leave.

The heaven that Sebold presents to us probably fits everyone's idea of it. It is different and perfect for every individual, and we'll have access to everyone we've lost in the past, whether we remember them or not. The spirit's ability to linger in the real world to give literal spiritual support is something every grieving family hopes for. Whether I can believe that to be true is another story.

'The Lovely Bones' is an addicting read that is written with a truly unique spirit and you shouldn't miss it. Thankfully, I had not seen the film at the time of writing, so nothing was spoiled for me and we'll see if the film can match the novel. Keep an eye out for my addendum soon!

UPDATE: Find out whether the film could match up in my addendum!

Have you read the novel and what did you think? What is your idea of heaven?