Alice Sebold, The Lovely Bones
A gravely beautiful tale of death told from beyond
It’s a thorny task that Alice Sebold has attempted in her first novel, The Lovely Bones. Susie Salmon is 14 years old when she is abducted and murdered by a neighbor, and Sebold’s book is narrated by the young girl as she looks out upon her former world from an ambiguous afterlife. What sounds tragic in summary is tender, reflective and even lighthearted in execution. Sebold captures the oft-overlooked perceptiveness and wisdom of children in her narrator’s tone, and Susie is a likable companion.
There is darkness as well, as one might expect. Susie’s father grows sick with grief after his daughter’s death, her mother flies the coop and Susie’s best friend is simply unable to let go. As seen through Susie’s measured gaze, however — and through Sebold’s quietly accomplished prose — the story becomes one of healing rather than hurt; and of seeing death as a transformation instead of a mere end.