Saturday, November 21, 2009

Book Review - The Lovely Bones

I thought I'd seek out Alice Sebold's The Lovely Bones as a lead-up to the release of the movie of the same name by Peter Jackson early next year. While most people know Jackson for the bigger budget and admittedly bigger scale Lord of the Ring movies and King Kong, he is actually very deft at the smaller stories also, as in Heavenly Creatures with Kate Winslet. So, without knowing a lot about the story, I thought it'd be worth a read.

The Lovely Bones is a ghost story of sorts. The main character of the story, Susie Salmons, is, in fact, dead and the story is told first-person by her. She is a high-school girl in a suburb of Philadelphia. She was brutally murdered and the story follows the lives of her classmates, her family, her neighbors, the police and the killer. Each passes through stages of grief and acceptance. How each copes varies and ultimately affects everyone else. Her death breaks up her parents marriage and changes her sister in many ways. Susie appears to have some interactions with those people even after her death.

While I don't think it is absolutely necessary to believe in God to appreciate the story, I think it undoubtedly helps. The exploration of heaven goes beyond what would be necessary if you were only talking about it in a metaphorical sense. By that I mean that perhaps heaven may have just represented a manifestation of the grief process that each person was going through. But I don't think that is the case for the author. Heaven is representing something for Susie herself, not just for her family. At that point, it's not just a metaphor. Sebold is literally talking about "heaven".

But I also think that Christians might not fully accept the book either. The heaven of Susie is godless. She has interaction with other victims of her murderer and other people that she knew had died but at no point is there an indication of a God.

I get that The Lovely Bones is largely an exploration of how people handle grief and how it can make them stronger. I'm just not sure how effective it is. I've also read that the story is also a study in suburban life and women's gender roles (specifically the mother's). But, again, if you have to be told by someone that these themes are there, you have to wonder how effective the writer was in conveying them.

The prose is pleasing enough and the characters are well-developed, but I just didn't accept the premise enough to fully buy into what the author was trying to say. I still want to see the movie because, duh, it's Peter Jackson, but I don't have as high of expectations as I did prior to reading the book.


wunelle said...

I've wondered about the book, thinking it might be a kind of Kathy Reichs forensic exploration of a crime from the bones. (Obviously, "wondering" is quite different in my little world from "checking.")

So I'm glad you did the footwork for me! I think I'll pass on this one...

dbackdad said...

lol. I didn't really have an idea what it was about going in ... just that Jackson was making a movie of it.

It's not a bad book. It just didn't trip my trigger.

L said...

gaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaah... i was totally down to read the book, i just saw the previews for the movie yesterday. dang... what a let down. guess i'll spend that money on another book of 3,000 word puzzles.