The Lovely Bones
“My name was Salmon, like the fish; first name Susie. I was fourteen when I was murdered on December 6, 1973. My murderer was a man from out neighbourhood. My mother liked his border flowers, and my father talked to him once about fertiliser.”
This is Susie Salmon, speaking from heaven – which looks a lot like her school playground, with the good kind of swing sets, councellors to help newcomers adjust, and friends to room with. Everything Susie wants appears as soon as she thinks of it – except the one thing she wants most: to be back with the people she loved on earth.
My Dad actually lent me this book, and after hearing it reduced him to tears at certain points (which is a sight, considering he’s a 19 stone muscle-man boxer) I knew I had to read it.
The story is about Susie Salmon, a 14-year-old schoolgirl who was brutally raped and murdered on her way home from school. She narrates the story from heaven, describing her family members’ individual descents into despair over her death and being unable to find her killer.
Sebold has taken a dark, possibly taboo subject and churned it into an elegant and, at some points, uplifting written masterpiece. If you have ever lost anyone close to you, you will be able to relate. It presents Susie watching over her family and friends as they grow up after her death, doing things she will never now experience. The whole story is atmospheric and captivates you, so you feel part of the family, feel their rollercoaster emotions over the years. You share their anger, their pain and their loss but also you feel an overwhelming sadness at being constantly reminded that Susie will never experience life past that of a 14-year-old.
Sebold consistently keeps the air of innocence and naivety surrounding Susie’s narrative, so you can always tell she is not mentally advancing any more from the day that she died in 1973, especially where she wanders around her ‘heaven’, a heaven of her “simplest dreams”, where “there were no teachers… We never had to go inside except for art class… The boys did not pinch our backsides or tell us we smelled; our textbooks were Seventeen and Glamour and Vogue”.
I remember reading it on the bus to and from work, and had to slam it shut at some points to compose myself. Otherwise I would have started bawling and made a tit out of myself.
If you have seen the film and never read the book, I suggest you erase the movie from your memory and start fresh with the book. With the movie, it focused on the pretty scenery and was very visually orientated, and I feel that compared to the book, it lacked any depth. The book is much darker and adult-like in terms of the developing storyline (most of which were missed from the film) and emotions that are felt.
The only slight dissappointment with this book was the ending; it was a bit flat. After feeling like a part of the family and sharing their pain and joy throughout the book I would have liked to read how they felt after her murderer was found, and the events following his departure from the story.