The Lovely Bones, the surprise 2002 hit from then up-and-comer Alice Sebold was a book I resisted for a long time (too many Book Club endorsements just make me lose interest), so I was surprised when Jim began the book and got all excited, making comparisons to Donna Tartt's misunderstood gem, The Little Friend.
The story is narrated by Susie Salmon, a young girl who looks down from heaven on those she loves in the aftermath of her brutal rape and murder. It's a fine line to walk since it could easily tip to the exploitative, real crimey side of things or land on the overly saccharine heaveny side but, to her credit, Sebold manages, for the most part, to balance everything beautifully.
For the first 250 pages or so, your nights will be long as it's really hard to put down. The horrific crime is ingeniously tempered by the non-sacchrine knowledge that the victim/narrator is someplace better; the depiction of heaven is also pretty brilliant and, to my joy, totally non-denominational.
But there's a significant shift in the latter part of the book, a shift that has certainly helped to set the book apart from the hundreds of movie-like thrillers published every month, a shift that I'm sure Sebold decided to go with in an attempt to defy people that wanted a movie-like thriller. I'm sorry to say that, in my own opinion, this is where the book looses a lot of its momentum. Focusing on the long term realistic loose ends of the surviving loved ones' pain and recovery, the ache of injustice and the difficulty of moving on, the conclusion is decent and fair thematically, I just wish I was more engagegd.
But enough nitpicking the ending, The Lovely Bones is still a pretty phenomenal book and worth a read if you're not one of the millions that have have. Sebold has a clear and unique voice that deserves all the praise its earned.