18th May 2017

The Lovely Bones

The Lovely Bones Alice Sebold

The Lovely Bones is narrated by Susie Salmon, a girl who was raped and murdered at age 14. She tells her story from her own personal heaven, looking back on her life, watching her killer, and following her loved ones as they try to move on with their lives. This book gives one person’s perception of life and death, and of heaven and Earth.

The Lovely Bones confronts the unjust and merciless nature of death. This is apparent when Susie’s father attempts to explain to his innocent four-year-old son that his sister is dead. He shows him the Monopoly board, telling him that the board is the world, and each of the Monopoly pieces is one of their family members or one of their friends. He tells his son that, each time he rolled the dice, one of the players would be removed, never able to play again. This explanation is a metaphor of death: as random as the roll of a dice, as finite as the end of a game. As Susie’s loved ones begin to accept this, they can start to move on, to face life without their daughter, their sister, or their friend.

After Susie’s death, she is transported to Heaven, where all of her desires are fulfilled. However, her experience in Heaven teaches us that material things are not the most important things in life and that our lives do not have to be perfect in order to bring us joy. Susie has everything she ever wanted in Heaven, yet she is not complete without the love of her family and friends. This is foreshadowed at the start of the book when Susie asks her father about a penguin trapped in a snow globe. Her father replies, saying, “Don’t worry, Susie; he has a nice life. He’s trapped in a perfect world.” After her death, Susie herself is trapped in a perfect world, unable to feel the simple joy of love. Isolated, alone, and surrounded by everything she ever wanted, Susie finds consolation by watching Earth, envying the living and their less-than-perfect lives.

This teaches the reader that the grass is not always greener on the other side. While many of us are constantly wishing for something else, we need to take a step back and realise what we have right in front of us. Susie’s story drives home the fact that it is not the material “things” that make life worth living, but the people we share them with.

The Lovely Bones may not be suitable for everyone, as it does not gloss over the violence. The harsh truth with with the novel is written may be a shock to some readers. However, it brings to our awareness the fact that the next murderer could easily be your teacher, or your coworker, or your neighbour, and the next victim could just as easily be you. We see this in the quote, “Murderers are not monsters, they’re men. And that’s the most frightening thing about them.” Humans often conceal bitter truths behind a facade. In this case, it is to convince themselves that murderers are somehow inhuman – easily recognisable, and something one only hears about in books and on TV. However, Alice Sebold strips away this illusion in her portrayal of the character Mr Harvey. While he may have been considered odd, no one ever suspected him of being capable of murdering a young girl.

In conclusion, The Lovely Bones is a gripping book that leaves the reader with a lot to reflect on. With many heart-wrenching moments, it is a heavy read, but with many lighter moments. Sebold writes in such a way that keeps your eyes glued to the book until the very last page, and turns the most insightful lessons into beautiful, poetic phrases. I would recommend this novel to anyone over the age of fourteen, as it is a perceptive, poignant account of death, murder, and grief.

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