Book 24 in Cannonball Read 2
The Lovely Bones was quite popular when it came out, and quickly acquired a high status. When the movie version came out in late 2009, almost every review compared it unfavorably to the book. Now, when the book came out, I was in school, and not likely to read for pleasure. The reviews of the movie piqued my interest - not so much from the fact that they compared the movie to the book unfavorably (that happens all the time), but because of the way many of the reviewers spoke of the book.
The Lovely Bones opens with the murder of 14-year-old Susie Salmon, and she narrates as she looks on from the afterlife. It is as much about Susie moving on and letting go of her attachment to her life as it is about what goes on for those she has left behind.
Susie’s family is (obviously) devastated by her death. Her sister Lindsay is hit hard, as everyone sees Susie when they look at her. Her father, Jack, becomes combative with the police and suspicious about Susie’s death, eventually narrowing in on their neighbor as a suspect. Her mother becomes more and more distant, as what was previously a mild dissatisfaction with her live becomes unbearable. Susie’s little brother, Buckley, is only four when she is murdered, and does not understand for some time that she will not be coming back.
Without getting into too much plot summary, I will simply say that The Lovely Bones has many things going for it. Sebold writes with great empathy for her characters, and great understanding. She also populates the book with interesting, enigmatic characters at the margins, from Ruana Singh, the mother of a boy who had a crush on Susie, to Holly, Susie’s best friend in heaven.
The Lovely Bones is ultimately an easily relatable, instantly sympathetic story of moving through grief and loss. What sets it apart is its unfailing empathy, and its focus on not only a grieving family, but a murdered girl learning to cope with her own death. Though it deals with complex people and relationships, it is simple and forthright in telling the story.