Here's one of those books that I've always meant to read, but didn't get around to it until now. I'd seen the bright blue cover all over bookstores, with the enigmatic charm bracelet and clean text. Mysterious. And very, very popular. There is a sticker on my hardback copy: "Read this! Good Morning America." It's been a huge bestseller, gotten critical acclaim, there's a movie in the works to be released next year. So what's all this fuss about? What is The Lovely Bones anyway?
The Lovely Bones, is, in a nutshell, about a murdered girl. But it's also about so much more than that.
Fourteen-year-old Susie Salmon, our narrator, is murdered at the beginning of the story. An older neighbor lures her to his backyard, into a fort he dug in the ground, rapes her and kills her.
But this isn't a murder mystery, and it isn't a horror. It isn't a religious book, or anything like that. After describing the events surrounding her death, Susie spends the majority of the book sitting up in her heaven, watching her family and friends deal with life after loss.
That's all she can do, for the most part. It may be a comfort to some people to think that the dead miss us as much as we miss them. Susie longs to talk to her family, to help them fill in the hole she left, to live her life that had so much potential until it was cut short. But Susie does not dwell upon this, and overall I would not say it is a sad book - though there are certainly many sad parts.
But mainly the story is about learning to move on. The family are crippled by grief at first, and Susie watches as they come to terms and go on with their lives, some more slowly than others. Their desire for healing, for justice, and for happiness are explored.
Susie is in heaven - not the Heaven, but her heaven. It's a heaven tailor-made for her, with all the things she likes. Those that share these desires, share bits of her heaven with her. It's not a Judeo-Christian Heaven and there is no mention of Hell, or any gods or angels or any of that. Susie resides in her own heaven, full of simple childish pleasures until she, too, can learn to move on, and let go of her obsession with her life as her family lets go of their obsession with her death.
"Our heaven had an ice cream shop where, when you asked for peppermint stick ice cream, no one ever said 'It's seasonal'; it had a newspaper where our pictures appeared a lot and made us look important... I could not have what I wanted most: Mr. Harvey dead and me living. Heaven wasn't perfect. But I came to believe that if I watched closely, and desired, I might change the lives of those I loved on Earth."
Length: 4/10 (1 is Dick and Jane, 10 is War and Peace) You can breeze through this pretty quickly. There aren't many sections that I would say 'drag on'. It's substantial but quick to read.
Grade: 85% A worthwhile read, to be sure. Full of a wide range of emotions - sadness, grief, yearning, but also love, suspense, and sweetness - but never sappy. The writing is smooth and pleasant, and in places quite beautiful.