Author: Alice Sebold
Publisher: Little, Brown & Company
Published: July 2002
Genre: Young Adult
When I re-entered the world of literature back at the start of the decade, I had little clue on what it was I should be reading. Aside from the most famous names in fiction, I was clueless. Heck, I'm still far and away from a place where I'd feel comfortable saying I'm "well read." Asking people for names of authors and novels I should be on the look-out for, Alice Sebold's sophmore novel The Lovely Bones came up. More than once. After getting the vague idea of what it was about, I put on a search for it. I soon found it atop a pile of new acquisitions at a used-book store. I snatched it up, bought it, and started reading it as soon as I got home. Upon finishing it, this book became a permanent fixture in my modest collection. And I rank it among my very favorite books.
Susie Salmon was raped and murdered in 1973. She was fourteen years old. And for the rest of the story, we watch her family grieve and look for answers, as well as seeing the turmoil in the life of her murderer. All this carries on over many years, and it's all encapsulated through the point of view of Susie, as she watches from her place in what might be described as Heaven's waiting room.
She can't pass on after death because she feels like there needs to be justice and closure for her family. She haunts them, and her killer, trying to find a way to make it known to those who can help how she died and how to make everything right again. As time passes though, she watches her family slowly disintergrate. The nature of her death is abound with rumors, as it's not clear to anyone except her and her killer how she died and where her remains have been hidden.
As much as you want to see the killer caught and thrown in prison, the story provokes you into wishing for something beyond that. You just want this family that's left in the wreakage of Susie's absence to heal and carry on. Even her friends and neighbors are shown to have reverberating effects from her death. The book can seem depressing and ultimately sad, but for those less inclined to read this kind of story, I encourage you to keep going. All of the people focused upon in the story reach at least some kind of resolution to their emotions, and many of their lives intertwine in ways no one could have anticipated ... least of all, Susie.
The story has a little bit of everything. And I do mean everything. All that's missing is a car chase, a talking mouse, and a cyborg. It blends superbly, however, and defies categorization. I only refer to it as YA fiction because Susie is fourteen. And, YA tends to be a kind of fiction that causes other people, men especially, to veer away. Don't. Read this book. It may not be a spy thriller, an urban fantasy, or a Mathesonian horror story, but it's a damned good book that deserves to be read by as many people as possible.