Friday, April 20, 2007

The Lovely Bones

The Lovely Bones: A Novel

Alice Sebold

Date: 2005-07-13 17:49:03   —   $14.93   —   Book

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This became a bookstore sensation, a book that was barely promoted that became one of the must-read books of 2002. The public hordes came in search of the latest fad book (which did not, incidentally, fit the criteria for a fad book as set out by Connie Willis in Bellwether.)

With good reason. This book is sweet without treading anywhere near schmaltz and somehow deals with a terrifying subject— the rape and murder of a teenaged girl— in a gentle fashion, allowing the reader to witness the terror without being scarred by it. The fact that it is told from the perspective of the murdered girl— after her death— probably helps, and the fact that her heaven is no more than she can handle at one time is also an aid.

The center of the story is about the result of trauma on a family, long after the event. In that, this novel breaks new ground: most stories on the subject deal with the first short period after such an event, ending invariably at the decision of the central character to more-or-less get on with life, which is shallow and untrue. The repurcussions of a traumatic death in the family, especially when they never get all of the details, reverberate for years, and the end result is not always predictable. Susie's family draws together, falls apart, and is affected by her death long after the standard stories end.

This is Alice Sebold's second book, and her first novel. Her other book is a non-fiction recounting of her rape and its effects, and is titled, non-ironically, Lucky. Her own past gives her a handle on the truth of trauma, and her treatment of it shows a remarkably healthy adjustment to life. I, like many others, need to get that other book to observe, at first hand, the strength of a woman who turned prose to gold.

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