Tuesday, May 28, 2013

The Lovely Bones, by Alice Sebold

Barnes & Noble

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.

I've waited a long time to read this book.  And not in a I-can't-wait-to-read-this way.  No, it's taken me forever because the subject matter makes me sick to my stomach.  The killing of children?  No thanks.  I hear enough in the news and have no need to increase my discomfort by reading a fictional account of the same.

But I've heard so many wonderful things about the book, and the title fit in perfectly with a task for my book club quarterly challenge, so I decided to go for it.  I assumed that it would consist of me listening and crying, so I limited my listening to private moments.  Shockingly, I didn't shed a single tear.  The book is written in the POV of the murder victim, so it was a lot easier for me to accept her death and the aftermath.

My biggest complaint with the audiobook version is the choice of narrator.  Alice Sebold read this version herself.  While she's a fantastic author, her narration leaves a lot to be desired.  She spoke with a flat affect that really got on my nerves at the beginning.  I got used to it quickly--or else I would have quit--but I would have preferred a different artist.

But I do want to see the movie now, which I never expected.

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