Thoughts on The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold

There have only been three books that have made me completely depressed to the point of tears.  The first case, I read Where the Red Fern Grows in fourth grade and I will admit I was bawling at the end.  Second, when I read Dobby’s death in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.  But in both cases I was able to get over the emotion quickly.  The first chapter of The Lovely Bones set a horrible taste in my mouth.  It has kept me angry not only at the events but I honestly feel like some details do not need to be written regardless of free speech. It crossed a line on what kind of content and images I want in my mind.   But that’s my opinion.

The rest of the concept of the novel was … interesting.  As a deeply religious person, I have hope for what heaven will be like for everyone.  And based on my personal beliefs of heaven, I’ve never imagined grief on behalf of someone innocent like Susie.  I can see someone like Mr. Harvey experiencing grief when he dies because, as a Christian, I believe and hope that murderers get their eternal judgment when they die.  The concept that Susie would be filled with grief, not just for her unsolved murder, but because of missed opportunities is not something I had really thought about so that part was interesting to me.

However, aside from the horrible concept of hurting a child, I had other problems with the novel.  As one of my classmates said, using Susie as the narrator began to feel like a gimmick.  And I am leaning in agreement there.  If not a gimmick, then at least a poorly assessed tool for narrating the story.  It some ways Susie’s narration feels like an excuse for the writer to be able to bounce from person to person.  But just because I didn’t like it doesn’t mean that it doesn’t work as a method of telling the story.  Overall, there was a depressing realism to the method.  Bad stuff happens, especially to kids, and the culprit can go unpunished and even though Susie is following people around hoping for resolution, unfortunately it doesn’t really happen.  At least not the way she wanted it.  (That’s why I hope for eternal judgment).

So overall it was an interesting story.  But content wise, I’m not going to recommend this to anyone.  I feel that the method of her death was just for shock factor and I feel, personally, it crossed a line.  If this wasn’t required reading, I never would have read it.

5 thoughts on “Thoughts on The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold”

  1. I don’t feel as if Susie’s death crossed a line. I think it was just a realistic view into the horrors of real life (or death). Did the manner of her death really add that much to the story? I’m not sure. I myself wasn’t depressed or sad with the story, by the time I connected with the characters, we were passed that point in the plot.

    I liked your comment about how just because you didn’t like it (the narrative style) does mean it didn’t work as a method of telling the story. Obviously it worked, she sold a ton of copies and it got turned into a movie. It just helps solidfy the fact that my writing doesn’t have to please everyone.

    Great post!

    1. I don’t know if it was in the regular book, but the author shares before narrating the audio-book that what inspired her to write the story was reading the newspaper and seeing all the girls that were found raped and murdered, and the killer was never found. Then, being raped herself as an adult. I don’t know if the manner of death added to the story, but it was important to the author. Definitely, “the horrors of real life.” Just sayin’.

  2. As a man of faith, if you were to write a story with God as the protagonist, wouldn’t he has similar POV issues? I think one of the reasons Sebold used this tactic is the idea that when people pass on, we always say they live within our hearts, yet they reside in heave, much the same as is spoken of God. Susie, being human, wouldn’t have the omniscience or omnipotence of God, but she would have the omnipresence.

  3. I don’t know. Maybe its because I’m not a parent, or maybe it’s because I’m a horrible person, but I couldn’t relate to any of the feelings behind the novel that seemed to move everyone else in this course. Mostly I took focus on what I would call lazy writing, but you call gimmicky, that happens with the POV. It did read like an excuse to me too. Like the author couldn’t be bothered to pin together a POV that made sense. That and the fact that the story didn’t seem to have much plot, or any consequences for the killer. The book just wasn’t something that worked for me. I would have also put it down earlier on if it weren’t required reading.

  4. A lot of people disliked the Hostel movies, dismissing them as empty “torture porn” like Saw and Human Centipede, but for me, the actual violence was never as frightening as the antagonist’s willingness to hurt and kill someone. We watch them look their victims in the eye, gleefully converse with them about how they’re going to kill them, then proceed to watch it happen. It’s a worst-case-scenario, watching pure evil triumph in the most horrible way possible, and that stuff is scarier to me than any monster or spirit. I think it’s because these scenarios scare me so much that I’ve reflected on them, and that the initial rape-murder scene–while sad and revolting–didn’t evoke a particularly visceral response from me. Maybe I’m a terrible person, but I can imagine longer, more painfully detailed accounts of those same events coming from a writer with less compassion than Sebold, and I felt like this first-person recounting was about as tame as the subject matter allowed.

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