Thursday, August 28, 2008

The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold

Holy freakin’ cow. This is one powerful book that grabs you by the throat and doesn’t let go.

Plot Summary: In 1973, a 14-year-old girl named Susie Salmon is raped, murdered, and dismembered by a neighbor. Over the next few years she watches from a personalized heaven as her family and friends deal with their grief.

As with all my book discussions, there are SPOILERS below.

I tend to walk the line between optimism and reality, hope and acceptance. In life, I lean more toward reality and acceptance. It just makes things easier for me. But in fiction, I definitely lean toward optimism and hope. Because of this, I can’t decide whether or not I loved this book.

On the one hand, this story is so full of real life and real characters that I was completely lost in it. On the other, that reality was so harsh that it squashed any hope I had of a righteous and happy ending .

Hopeful Me wanted the cavalry to haul in Mr. Harvey. She wanted Susie’s family to be able to spit in his face. She wanted him humiliated for all the world to see. She wanted him put safely behind bars so no one else would become his victim. But that didn’t happen. Instead, he fell into a hole, and wouldn’t be discovered for months. Hopeful Me was outraged.

But Reality Me accepted this as how this often happen in real life. Especially during that time period. It’s completely unfair and infuriating, but that’s just how it goes sometimes. And the author captured this amazingly well.

Susie’s family is another reality that was harsh, yet there was still hope there. Losing a close family member can understandably destroy the family. At the very least, it destroys the current way of life. Rebuilding that is both difficult and painful, because you are constantly reminded of what’s been taken from you. But, as Susie observes, her family finds a way through. Hopeful Me was elated.

The only real stumbling block I had was with the shifts in focus from person to person. Susie is in heaven and can watch the Earth from her spot in the clouds, and she can see into the minds and hearts of everyone. So we have a first person narration with something like an omniscient POV. It was interesting, but the transitions from person to person could be confusing. Susie would sometimes shift so quickly and so often that I didn’t know who we were reading about. Once the focus settled, then I understood. But it sometimes took a while.

That, combined with the raging war between Hopeful Me and Reality Me, left me feeling exhausted once I finished this book. I definitely enjoyed it, but I don’t think I have the strength to read it again.


Unknown said...

I loved this book when I read it. I read it very shortly after it came out (it's a hardback on my shelf during my poor college days when I couldn't really afford hardbacks). Even though I haven't read it, all I have to do is look at the spine of the book on my shelf and I remember all the feelings I had when reading it. It's brilliant. I love the way some of the graphicness of the book (like the murder) were dealt with. I liked the was the narrator's resolution, if not the family's.

Marcia said...

I have to confess I've never read it. I think it was a matter of wondering whether or not I'd buy the premise (my concept of heaven is biblically based) and then just not picking it up because there are always so many books to read. But I'm really interested in your can't-decide-if-you-love-it assessment combined with feeling you wouldn't have the strength to read it again. Intriguing!

PJ Hoover said...

I don't think I could read this. Your one sentence summary is enough. Ack!!!!
But the fact that it was so powerful for you does make it compelling. Just not enough :)

Tabitha said...

Beth - I'm so gald to hear you loved it! I will probably be sitting on this fence for a long, long time. So I'm really glad to hear from someone who absolutely loves it. :)

Marcia - Susie's heaven isn't too far removed from biblical heaven, and the story's focus is more on Susie and not so much her heaven. So you might be okay. Even though I don't have the strength to read it again, I still recommend it. It's a very powerful story about family.

PJ - this story is definitely NOT for the faint of heart! It's harsh and real, even though it's not overly graphic. I agree with Beth that the author handled these scenes extremely well. But if a healthy dose of reality is not your cup of tea, then it makes sense to pass on this story. :)

PJ Hoover said...

LOL - A healthy dose of reality!
So not my cup of tea!
It's why I stick to Fantasy and sci-fi!
I wonder if this is really the reason that's all I write!

Tabitha said...

LOL!! I'm a huge fantasy and sci-fi fan for that same reason. :)

Gottawrite Girl said...

O, those dark, gritty stories. They are my favorite - and I feel the same, if I couldn't stomach to watch/ read it again, THAT'S the gold star!

Carrie Harris said...

I definitely think it's worth reading at least once, but I know what you mean, Tabitha. I own it and tried to revisit it again but just couldn't go through it again. I still remember how it felt to be devouring the end during my lunch break at work, desperate for Mr. Harvey to get his just deserts. I was REALLY late that day, and while it's unfortunately realistic, man, I really wanted Mr. Salmon to have the opportunity to pummel him.

Tabitha said...

GWG - this is most definitely a fine book. Well crafted and riveting, and I'm definitely glad I read it! :)

Carrie - I soooo wanted Mr. Salmon to do the same. :) That man was in so much pain, and pummelling Mr. Harvey would have helped him a bit. Though the family does find acceptance in the end, which was really good. I totally agree that this is a book to be read at least once. I might read it again, but not for many, many years. :)

C.R. Evers said...

I've been dying to find a book that draws me in and won't let me go. I'm in a dry spell. I'll have to try this one.


Tabitha said...

This is a great book, and I definitely recommend it. I hope you'll come back and tell us what you thought about it!

Angela said...

I loved it too. I like how she pulls you in and out of past and present and you never feel lost and it isn't abrupt.

Sigh.... writer envy strikes again.

Tabitha said...

LOL!! She really did have great transitions from time frame to time frame. Such a unique story...and I'm definitely glad I read it.

Angela Ackerman said...

Too crazy--I read this book on my holiday! I think we have some kind of psychic connection going on or something.

I loved the book--the writing was very powerful, but it made me really worry about my kids after reading it. Just the thought of something like this happening to them...

Tabitha said...

LOL! I have long thought that we have a psychic connection. :)

I had the same fear for my kids after reading this. Though, I only have boys, so it wasn't as acute as if I'd had a girl. But still...ya know?