Book Review: The Lovely Bones

Reese Marsalis, Staff Writer

Everyone has pondered the possibilities of life after death. Is heaven real? If it is, what is it like? How does one get there, and are our loved ones always really with us after they pass? Alice Sebold answers these questions in the culmination of her bestselling novel The Lovely Bones

The story is set in 1970’s Pennsylvania and told by 14-year-old Susie Salmon, who happens to be in heaven. Within the first few pages (I promise this is not a spoiler), Susie is violently murdered on her way home from school by an introverted neighbor. While in heaven, Susie watches her family and friends deal with the aftermath of her murder and their struggles in moving forward. She recalls events leading up to her murder, pondering the “what could have beens.”

Perhaps the most challenging character to follow for her is Ray Singh, the boy who was in love with Susie. Her first kiss and first crush never forgets about Susie, though he inevitably must continue to live and grow without her.

Additionally, there is Ruth, the girl whom Susie’s spirit touched on her departure from Earth. Ever since the day of the murder, Ruth, the outcast of the small town, found a new hobby in Susie’s murder (in the least creepy way possible).

And, of course, Susie watches her family. Her parents deal with the unanswered murder of their eldest daughter in opposite ways. Lindsay, Susie’s genius sister, deals with school and life without her big sister. She learns new ways to cope and continue living with a gaping hole in her life. Buckley, Susie’s toddler brother, ponders the disappearance of his sister, creating an even more tragic outlook on the murder as it is expressed through an innocent child.

Finally, Susie follows the life of her murderer and how he continues to evade the roadblocks in his life. 

This novel is heart-wrenching and tragic, yet beautiful and inspiring at the same time. Sebold captures the struggles of losing a loved one in a unique way. Susie is always watching, as secrets are revealed and lives are changed forever after the murder. I recommend it to everyone. The unique perspective from heaven is one that few people think about. Sebold answers the questions about afterlife in her own way. The innocent life of a fourteen-year-old girl was stripped away, though she is never completely gone. Above all, The Lovely Bones is a reminder to live life to the fullest, to seize the day, and to hug your loved ones.