There are many stories about how people deal with grief. Alice Sebold tells her story through the eyes of a murder victim.
Susie Salmon is fourteen when a neighbor lures her to her death. Watching from a kind of limbo she calls heaven, she describes in poignant detail the reactions of her parents, siblings, friends, even the police detective investigating her disappearance.
The situation is as frustrating for Susie as it is for those she left behind. She cannot lead the detective to her dismembered body, or comfort her loved ones. Instead, she watches helplessly as their lives take unexpected turns, while the killer remains at large. Meanwhile a spirit named Franny tells Susie that there is only one way she can move on from mortality, and that is to give it up.
What I enjoyed most about The Lovely Bones was its pervasive atmosphere of love and kindness, especially an impromptu gathering of Susie’s neighbor’s, teachers, and schoolmates on the anniversary of her loss. Though not everyone behaves admirably, the characters draw strength from each other and find ways to carry on with their lives. Ruth Connor, a lonely schoolgirl with a sixth sense about Susie, provides a brief liaison between the living and the dead.
Alice Sebold is an excellent narrator with a rare gift for touching the reader’s heart. Her novel’s only flaw lies in occasional foul language and sexual references that I could have done without. Otherwise, I recommend it enthusiastically.