The Lovely Bones was a beautiful book that exposed deep feelings due to its very sad backdrop. The story relates to the child murder of Susie Salmon, and how from beyond the grave she watches how her family and friends come to terms with her death, and also how the murderer still lives amongst them.
“My name was Salmon, like the fish: first name, Susie. I was fourteen when I was murdered on December 6, 1973.
I was killed by Mr. Botte, by the way.”
While we are dealing with a child murder, the fact that Susie narrates throughout the story means that it has a supernatural flavour. After the initial horrific coverage of Susie’s rape and murder, the pace changes and with Susie narrating the full force of her death subsides. The loss is not so tangible as she continues to engage with us.
Susie watches, frustrated and saddened that she can’t call out to her family or direct them or warn them as they continue to encounter the murderer, and how he/she continues to stalk menacingly within the neighbourhood. Susie watches as her family pull themselves apart particularly her mother and father as they each deal with the loss totally differently. The mix of emotions is cleverly portrayed from loss to guilt, from sadness to anger, and always with the torment of Susie’s death being unresolved and her body undiscovered. The characters are well developed and continue to evolve along with their various relationships. The relationship between Susie’s school crush, Ray, and a girl Ruth, who seems to have a sense of the supernatural is wonderfully developed. Ray unfortunately due to his closeness with Susie had to endure the initial suspicion and a cloud that he probably finds difficult to shift.
This was Alice Sebold’s debut novel and I feel it still remains her best.