The Lovely Bones is a title familiar to many, in part because of its gruesome storyline but, mostly, because of the major motion picture. I, like many, committed the cardinal sin and watched the film before I read the book. After watching the film, I felt that reading the book maybe disappointing as I had loved the film so much. I could not have been more wrong.
The book focuses on Susie Salmon, a regular midwestern girl. She is the narrator, retelling the story of her death and how she comes to terms with it in her heaven. Sebold also chooses to follow the family and friends of Susie. This perspective is new and fresh as, when someone dies, we never think about how it affects the family in the long term or how the absence of one person can haunt people for the rest of their lives.
I must stress to any prospective reader that you must not be deterred by the sad and slightly sadistic plot of the novel. It is also a story filled with love, support and closure: a tale of how love can grow even in the darkest of times. Perhaps the book’s popularity could be attributed to the fact that it offers a calm reassurance about what lies after you reach the end of your earthly life. The idea of heaven is a construct that has intrigued human kind for generations, and Sebold capitalises on this. This book provides the reader with a glimpse into the afterlife and celebrates death as an act of freedom rather than a ‘life sentence’, as it were.
Sebold has created a powerfully evocative and overwhelmingly moving novel that is guaranteed to compel and provoke the thoughts of anyone who should read it. The Lovely Bones is a celebration of how strong the love between a family can be, a bond that cannot be broken. Even in death. This novel is utterly exquisite and poignant in every way. An underrated masterpiece which is definitely worth a read.
Words by Joe Lewin