The Lovely Bones

ISBN: 0330485385
ISBN 13: 9780330485388
By: Alice Sebold

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Book Club Contemporary Crime Currently Reading Fantasy Favorites Fiction Mystery To Read Young Adult

About this book

The critically acclaimed international bestseller -- 'Moving and compelling ... It will put an imperceptible but stealthily insistent hold on you.' Maggie O'Farrell, Sunday Telegrap

Reader's Thoughts

S C Tisdale

This is easily the worst book I've ever read in my entire life. SPOILER ALERT: She comes back from heaven to bang the guy she liked.If you like this book, then you hate literature. It's that simple. I'm not joking. Do not read this book.

Florence (Lefty) MacIntosh

It’s the supporting characters that make this book so memorable. Her distracted mother with the ocean eyes, her friend Ruth who’s soul she continues to touch from her heaven; her eccentric alcoholic grandma Lynn; her brilliant sister Lindsey; but most poignant of all her father Jack Salmon who just doesn’t know how to let go of his little girl. Imaginative, original, thoughtful; just a great story. "Our only kiss was like an accident- a beautiful gasoline rainbow.”

Emily May

After hearing all the hype about this book, I couldn't wait to read it and discover how amazing it is for myself. I was greatly disappointed.How has this book become such a worldwide success? It's slow, boring and there is no real connection with any of the characters. I found myself disliking everyone in the book.The overall idea could have been very good, even though it isn't exactly original, but I just thought the author didn't make the most of this great idea that she had. The best part of the book, without meaning to sound gruesome and morbid, was the death scene at the beginning. I admit that it was creepy and well told, I read that and geared myself up for a good book. But for me, it was as if the story ended there and the rest was a load of slow-moving waffle. The great idea had come along, happened for a while, and then died a painful death with the protagonist. The characters weren't interesting enough to hold up the rest of the story, I was just relieved when I finally got to the end. It was a painfully boring book... and I've lost count of the times people have told me how much they love it - why? Did I miss something? I honestly feel like I've read a completely different book from everyone else... I do not understand it's popularity at all.

Amanda

I can't review this book by thinking about the plot or about theme and diction, for it is only (and truly) a series of snapshots, candid and sore, that piece together the lives of living people. The delicate sweet soul of a father; a grandmother with the heart of an empath; a sister whose youth and adulthood travel arm in arm; a numb and emptied mother; a young girl then grown woman living pierced on the periphery. This book is about the people in my life and yours whose very essence is pinned down to a spot in time and space--these lovely bones, growing in a soft-shelled skeleton around our lives. It is by turning the pages where these bones grow, that I could reflect on the wheel of life--what a joy (can you call it joy when it's sad?) to witness humanity breathing ceaselessly, moving forward, and loving without remorse. I am at peace to think that this sweet family, though scarred, will smile at another sunrise. To touch the living is a precious thing.

Blair

In a nutshell: overrated; questionable characterisation; breathtakingly ridiculous ending.The Lovely Bones is a story about a murdered teenage girl, told from the point of view of said girl - Susie Salmon - as she watches over her loved ones from heaven. So, obviously, it's constantly trying to pull at the heartstrings from page one. In this, it occasionally succeeds - while much of it is a little too schmaltzy, there are some genuinely touching moments too. Given the book's ubiquity and popularity, I thought it might be really trashy, but it in fact the writing isn't that bad, despite the over-enthusiastic use of metaphors and similes. The narrative paints a believable picture of a family falling apart after the loss of a child, and the glimpses of Susie's heaven are intriguing, if disappointingly brief (I wish this element had been explored further). However, I had issues with a lot of the characters. Ray and Ruth, for example. Would two teenagers - one a boy who'd kissed Susie once, one a girl who'd barely spoken to her - really find it so hard to forget her and move on, for so many years afterwards? Though the narrative doesn't detail everything that happens to them, it's implied that Ray in particular (despite apparently being incredibly attractive) never has any kind of romantic involvement with another girl as a result of his continuing preoccupation with the memory of Susie. How convenient, since she's 'watching over' him and the reader is almost encouraged to see him as 'belonging' to her. Similarly, the actions of some of Susie's family (particularly her mother) are difficult to understand. I can well believe that the murder of one daughter would lead a mother to become depressed, alienated from her husband and other children, and ultimately to desert her remaining family - but nothing Abigail does, apart from a cursory affair with one of the policemen investigating Susie's death, is actually explained from her point of view. When she leaves her family, the decision just seems completely baffling - it's one of those 'hang on a minute, what?!' moments because you just don't get inside Abigail's head enough to understand her private motivations.Sebold makes some attempts to flesh out and humanise Mr. Harvey, Susie's murderer, detailing his efforts to restrain himself from committing his crimes; for example, killing neighbourhood pets in a vain attempt to restrain his appetite for attacking young girls. (The ghostly Susie can, it seems, read minds and know every detail of past events she wasn't involved in; again, very convenient, and there's no explanation of how she comes to realise she has this 'power', or how she masters it.) However, the character is such a cliché in the first place (creepy loner, obsessed with his mother, has weird hobbies) that in the end he seems like neither a monster nor a believable human being, but just a strangely indistinct and nondescript character given that he's a serial killer. It's also very frustrating that he's never caught or given his comeuppance. Finally, there's the ending. What to say about the ending?! If you've read the book (unless you loved it, of course), you'll probably know what I mean. If you haven't, all I'll say is that something happens that's so utterly ludicrous that deus ex machina doesn't even begin to cover it. Not only that, but the apparent message of this conclusion, and the moral implications for the (living) characters involved, are extremely dubious at best. Having wavered between thinking this book was kind-of-good and kind-of-bad throughout, the ending pushed my opinion firmly into the negative category and ruined many of the positives for me. Sorry to say it, but this is the kind of book that people who normally read nothing but chick-lit will find really PROFOUND and MOVING, which I'd imagine is why it sold so many copies. If you don't fit that description, I think it's best avoided. Have a look at the top-rated reviews on Goodreads; they're predominantly negative, and I agree with a lot of what they say.

Sarah

The Lovely Bones has got to be the most baffling, poorly written, jaw-droppingly bad book that I have ever set my eyes on. It is truly a black, black tragedy that the words in this book were placed in that particular order, published, and distributed. How could this have ever possibly been popular? Is it for the same reason that the song “My Humps” hit number one? I mean, I don’t technically believe in burning books, but this novel really got me thinking. About burning it.If it serves any use at all, it might be a perfect guide on how not to write a book. Here are some of my gripes, problems and issues that we can hopefully use to prevent something like this from ever happening again to us, our children, or our children’s children:It is filled with some of the worst sentence-level writing that I have ever encountered. From bad description to horrible grammar to utterly confusing metaphors, Sebold covered it all. A tell-tale way to spot a weak writer? They can’t stop weirdly describing people’s eyes. Don’t believe me? Try this sentence: “Her eyes were like flint and flower petals.” Or this one: “The tears came like a small relentless army approaching the front lines of her eyes. She asked for coffee and toast in a restaurant and buttered it with her tears.” Really? She buttered the coffee and toast with her tears? Or this one, this time about someone’s heart: “Her heart, like a recipe, was reduced.” What the hell?And here’s my favorite eye description in the book: “Her pupils dilated, pulsing in and out like small, ferocious olives.” That’s right. Ferocious olives. I’ve read MadLibs that make more sense than that.It seems to lack a plot. You know, that thing that books are supposed to have. I’ll never forget my first workshop with Brady Udall, in which he threw my story onto the table and said, “This isn’t a story, Sarah, it’s a situation.” And as much as I despaired when I got home, he was right. Sebold has the same problem: her book is a really long situation. A girl dies and watches her family from heaven. Okay. That’s nice. But what do the characters want? What drives the story forward? Nothing. The characters get older and keep bumping into each other. Things change, and things often do, but there is no forward movement and certainly no building of suspense.Since there’s no plot, the ending is just a bunch of weird stuff happening. I read the last thirty pages on the train this morning, and couldn’t stop a few outbursts: “Oh, no she didn’t!” I’d say, talking to Alice Sebold and her crazy ways. She is just plain bold when it comes to doing whatever she feels like, and she feels like doing the weirdest stuff ever. It’s not that I don’t want to write spoilers here, it’s that I can’t even explain to you what happened at the end of the book. And I bet she can’t either. I’m not exaggerating.Her characters never have interesting or complex thoughts. Not even the serial killer or the mother whose daughter was murdered. It seems that Sebold’s characters do one of two things: they laugh (which means they are happy) or cry (to butter their toast, somehow, when they are sad). As you might guess, there is a lot of laughing and crying in this book. When a character is confused, they laugh and cry at the same time. This also happens often.I feel a little better after venting. But I’m still deeply sad and angry. I feel like my own writing might have been permanently damaged by reading this book… like a couple of… ferocious… olives?

Meg ♥

Let me start this off by saying that I really wanted to like this book. Although the subject of a little girl being brutally raped and murdered is extremely disturbing I thought it would be interesting to read about her in the afterlife as she watched her family try to solve her murder.There is not much that I can even say without giving things away, but I did not like this book at all. I still had about 50 pages to go before I stopped reading this, and I may go back and finish it, but for now I just couldn't take any more. Everyone knows I am usually really into dark and disturbing books, but reading about her family moving on and knowing that the killer was right there was just something I could not handle. I felt very bored at certain parts too, and found my mind wandering, but I'm not sure if the book was genuinely boring or if my mind just wanted to escape the thoughts of it.About the rating. I did not give this one star because I felt it was a poorly written book or even a bad book. I know quite a few people who loved this book, and think of it as a 5 star gem, and I can understand why. It just wasn't for me.

Seth Hahne

** spoiler alert ** One book, two rapes. How's that for a bargain? (The book only advertises one.) Yuck.The book in question is Alice Sebold's The Lovely Bones. I'm not giving anything away by saying it's a book about a girl (the narrator) who was murdered. That's revealed in the book's second sentence. It's also not a big deal to let you know she was raped and murdered by a neighbour, George Harvey. That all is related pretty early on. What isn't revealed until maybe the last fifty pages is that the girl herself, Susie Salmon, becomes a rapist.Ideologically, I'm not certain which one is worse. I could be persuaded.But the way the book presents the two incidents is markedly different. One is revealed in low lights and has a horror edge to it. It's seen unilaterally as an evil, wicked deed. The other is the book's highlight, the moment at which the author breathes a sigh of relief and says that everything else made right. I suppose it makes sense; the narrator probably wouldn't see her actions for what they were. But in the end, both George and Susie deal with their childhood victimizations in that manner typical to the criminal genre these days.Both George and Susie had horrible things happen in their formative years that leave long-lasting scars. The only difference is that George Harvey lived and Susie Salmon died. Not that it makes much difference. Susie is as alive a character as George for the purposes of the story. They both want what they want and care little for the well-being of the women who get in their way. The difference is that George Harvey is portrayed as the villain he is, while little Susie Salmon is treated as a hero.Those who have read the book may not have even noticed Susie's complete abandonment of moral sense or care for the woman she violates. After all, she doesn't exactly couch things in those terms. So here it is, laid out for you.When Susie was alive, there was a boy who liked her, Ray. In the years after her death, Ray grows up to be, in the narrator's view, an attractive young man. She watches him and loves him. Somehow, events conspire to allow Susie to possess the body of Ruth, a friend of Ray's. Susie uses the opportunity to seduce Ray and they make love several times in the course of a few hours. And then Susie has to go back to heaven. Leaving Ruth, a victim of Susie's power over her body.Imagine that you're Ruth. You wake up. Naked. Probably a little tender. Used. In the back of some bike shop. With a man in the shower. That's what I call horror. Not only was she not conscious or aware for any of the immediately preceding events, but the guy who's been really her only friend in the world is now naked and telling her that he screwed her brains out while she was unconscious. And even if he doesn't tell her that, there's a very short rail of evidence and it all points to that conclusion. And now. She could be pregnant. She could be diseased.Yep. The crowning act of love on the part of the tale's heroine is little more than a petty, rapacious act of power over the helpless woman who got in her way. Good job Susie Salmon. You and George Harvey should get along nicely.p.s. even though I called it a spoiler, I think that Alice Sebold spoiled the book. Not me.

Ted

** spoiler alert ** Two-dimensional stereotyped characters-Mother – living with the regret of losing her independence to the demands of childrearing. The tragic loss of a daughter accelerates her departure from those heavy burdens and into the arms of the detective working the case.-Father – obsessed to the point that he neglects the living members of his family destroying his relationship with his wife. Only in her absence is he able to fall in love with her “all over again”.-Detective – his ‘sob-story’ past (wife committed suicide) explains his devotion to make sense of senseless death by solving cases of murdered women. This leads him into the arms of the latest victim’s mother (who, incidentally, reminds him of his dead wife - eww).-Mrs. Singh – the exotic, wise, independent, and strong foreigner who calmly dispenses cool sage-like personal advice to near-strangers.-George Harvey – the ‘odd-but-harmless neighbor’ otherwise know as the psychotic pedophile/murderer who builds dollhouses in his spare time. Queue soundtrack with mangled version of a nursery rhyme transposed to a minor key ungainly lobbed from a detuned piano. Snippets from his mildly troubling childhood are revealed…explaining nothing.-Grandma Lynn – the often drunk but all-knowing grandmother with a ‘wacky’ liberal perspective on life.-I could go on…the youngest sibling who sees the ghost of Susie as his imaginary friend, the sister who struggles to become her own person from under the shadow of her dead sister, her boyfriend as the complete antithesis to the evil Mr. Harvey, her boyfriend’s older brother as the macho gear-head with a heart of gold.The NarrativeThere is only the occasional passage where the narrator’s voice sounds like that a teenage girl from the mid-seventies (“Lindsay had a boy in the kitchen!” – oh the giddiness of it all!). Small blessings. Cliché after cliché. If you haven’t already gotten a sense of the hackneyed construction of this book please re-read the first page of this rant. Only a sportscaster from some small-town cable station would stand a fighting chance of besting Sebold in a contest of cliché slinging.The EndingWorthy of Hallmark. Every loose end is tied up with nobody owning up to the consequences of their actions (with the exception of Mr. Harvey, because he’s bad, you see). The family is reunited, the murderer is murdered, the daughter marries her high school sweetheart and has a child of her own (thus proving that life does go on…sniff), and lastly, the teenaged ghost of murdered Susie Salmon transcends her personal minor heaven (a staging ground for spirits who persistently cling to the living world) by ‘falling’ back to earth, inhabiting the now 20-something body of a lesbian acquaintance in order to trespass into another person’s home and have sex with the now 20-something boy she had a crush on shortly before her murder. The moral? Only after wilfully experiencing the delightful carnal pleasures of the flesh can one, even the spirit of a murdered teenaged girl, let go of those lost earthly pleasures and move on to a higher and presumably more enlightened plane of existence where you are free to smite those that have wronged you. Touching, really.The Lovely Bones reviews-Why do they always say “brutal” murder or “brutal” rape? Is that opposed to the “wonderful” murders and “superb” rapes in other novels?-Did any of these reviewers even read the book?! They just seem to be reading each other’s reviews, praising the unique first person narrative of a protagonist in heaven and how it deals with such a horrifying topic. The fist person perspective does not offer anything new and the only thing horrifying here is that people consume mind-numbing garbage like this at an alarming rate.-There’s nothing new here. What was the point? Aside from, paranormal sex is a wonderfully liberating experience for both the possessive-spiri

Trevor

I liked this book quite a bit. I found it to be a well-crafted story that kept me engaged all the way through. From the very first chapter where she depicts her own murder and subsequent ascent to "heaven," I thought it was extremely well-written. I also thought it provided an interesting perspective on grief and mourning as the remaining family members try to cope with their sudden loss. For anyone who's pondered the happenings of the afterlife, this book provides a unique ripple that's fresh, interesting and thought-provoking.

Jessica

"These were the lovely bones that had grown around my absence: the connections – sometimes tenuous, sometimes made at a great cost, but often magnificent – that happened after I was gone."I hardly ever read books when they are first released. I always seem to be a few years behind, for whatever reason. Sometimes this works to my advantage, as it allows me to avoid a degree of hype that surrounds certain books. I do remember seeing the blue cover of The Lovely Bones on shelves in every bookstore when it was released a few years ago and seeing mentions on best-sellers lists. But I didn’t take much interest in it because, sometimes, when a book/movie/album gets so many rave reviews, I’ll expect it to blow me through the roof and will end up disappointed when it’s only mildly entertaining or moving (see: The Time Traveler’s Wife).I prefer to go in with low expectations and let myself be surprised with greatness. Not that I’m a bitter person or anything. Not at all. Ok, I’m working on it.Anyway, I was visiting my tiny local library for the first time, searching for a book to check out, when I saw the blue spine peaking out from the shelf. Since I had already read the few classics they had in stock, and don’t really go for Harlequin romance, I took Alice Sebold home with me. Much to my surprise, I finished the book in a day’s time. It wasn’t so much Sebold’s writing style, which is good but not spectacular, or even the tinges of mystery in the plot that captivated me. It was the raw human emotion that she so perfectly conveyed through each character. The characters felt real—both their positive qualities and their shortcomings. The pain, confusion, regret, and maybe even hope that they each felt in their own ways really impacted me. The Lovely Bones is the story of a young girl who is raped and murdered in her neighborhood. She speaks to the reader from her version of heaven (it can be different for each person), and looks over her family as they unravel after the tragic event. Perhaps it had something to do with my already delicate state (I was home sick while reading) but the book managed to make me cry. More than once. I’m slightly embarrassed to admit that, and the book snob in me would prefer to believe I am “above” sentimental plot devices, but to be honest—the book is just really sad.I also liked the subtle message of hope that carries through the novel, without reading like a “Chicken Soup” book. The ending isn’t the overly hokey “I will survive” type, and still has a shade of melancholy, but seems to say that even through utter grief and personal devastation, life goes on.

kensou09

Alice Sebold's haunting and heartbreaking debut novel, The Lovely Bones, unfolds from heaven, where "life is a perpetual yesterday" and where Susie, a girl raped and murdered at the age of 14, narrates and keeps watch over her grieving family and friends, as well as her brazen killer and the sad detective working on her case, struggling to accept her death while as well as clinging to the lost world of the living.The book started out strong, but it fizzled completely in the middle. Sebold kept giving hints of a great story, but fell short with endless, boring, inconsequential details and a lack of detail when it really mattered. Call me unimaginative, but I don't like when a writer leaves important details to the readers imagination. Spell it out for me.Being an avid mystery/horror story lover, and reading my fair share of books regarding the "great beyond", I didn't get the feeling she had enough knowledge to adequately write about such topics. Her clues and climaxes went nowhere and it left me with more questions than answers. She would draw me in with these little details I thought she's expand on, and never did.If you're not a very sentimental person, don't buy this book. If you're the type of person that likes closure at the end of the story, don't read this book. If you're looking for a wonderful view of heaven and the "great beyond", don't read the book.Anyway, it's just my advice. Opinion depends upon each reader's point of view.

Maggie

Why did this book get so much love? Maybe it's the same reason that child molestation/abduction/murder always shoots to the top of CNN.com's list of most-read stories. America is fascinated with the subject matter. That's the only explanation I can think of. As has been said by other reviewers here, the book itself was atrociously written, with flat, stereotyped characters and is full of laugh-out-loud awful passages. I only finished it so that no one could pull the old "But it gets better..." on me. It does not. More generally, I'd also like to add: When people say, "I felt like I knew the characters in (insert title of any book here)," watch out. Sometimes it means that the author has created a strikingly believable character; but more often it means that the author has created a bunch of lifeless characters into whom your friend has pumped the authenticity of people whom they know.

Tracy

** spoiler alert ** not generally the sort of book i read, but it surprisingly hooked me in. i'm not sure it was exactly good, but i really couldn't put it down, so there's something to be said for that. my main problem with it was that it was just really unsatisfying in some ways... there's no wrapping up of loose ends. i mean really (and there are spoilers ahead, so watch out), the murderer gets away with it? they never find her body!? that was soooooo frusterating, especially since i'm a big fan of things like cold case files and stuff like that (i mean, how great would it have been if he'd gotten caught like 10 years later at the end of the book? that would have made it about a million times better). and although i kind of enjoyed sebold's interpretation of heaven (my very favorite part was when susie's dog died and joined her in heaven), but it was just a little creepy at the end where susie possesses ruth and gets it on with her pre-teen crush. plus, kind of weird, especially seeing as how ruth is a lesbian, she and the boy are buddies, and the main character was the victim of a sex crime. i know ruth had special abilities and all that, but i think fingering the killer would have been a better use of them.also, i really think i have to point out how strikingly similar the opening line of the book is to teen fiction; specifically, it brings to mind THE LAST VAMPIRE by christopher pike. mind you, i haven't read christopher pike since i was 13, but from what i remember that series (told in first person by the last vampire herself) started pretty much exactly the same way. i think he also had a book told in the first person by a dead girl who possessed the body of a friend of hers, so it's not exactly revolutionary. which isn't neccessarily a bad way to start, but a little bit obvious. anyway, it was a strangely entralling book, but i think it might a bit similar to the davinci code, in that it seems really good while you're reading it, but then afterward you realize it actually was sort of less than it should have been.

Claire Greene

This book has single handedly shown me that I spend too much time skimming and not enough time really reading and thinking about the books I have been reading. I have two kids and so I'm busy and I often find myself reading when I am stealing time or tired. But that is not even an excuse for this book. When i read the book I thought it was pretty good. Not great, but not bad. I liked the concept and the fact that the girl was the narrator. I like a murder mystery, so I liked the suspense of waiting to see if the guy would get caught, etc. So when all was said and done and I finished the book, I thought - yeah, okay. Not bad, but not great. Then I went online here and read the other reviews, particularly one by TheDane (http://www.goodreads.com/user/show/16...) and I went - HEY!! That's right! I mean, the writing alone is something I should have picked up one had I really been paying attention. Pupils pulsing like olives?? Buttering toast with tears?? Umm... I really must have been distracted or skimming like crazy because that is ridiculous. And the real meaning of the final scene went WAY over my head, which I am somewhat ashamed to admit. When I read it, I really was like, yeah yeah, oh that's sweet she got one night with her boyfriend which she had been cheated of and all. But when you slow down and really think of this, the enormity of that is overwhelming. A young girl who dies after being RAPED. A girl who's first sexual experience was RAPE by an older man. A girl who actually barely knew this boy in her life. This girl can only let go of life after having sex. With that boy. That she really didn't know that well. That alone is enough to send of some big alarms. But then you add that she was allowed to go back to earth - to have sex??? Not see her family, not comfort her father and brother and sister? Not point out the killer?? Nope, heaven lets her go back, then of all times, not earlier when she wanted it more, or could have done more both for justice and her family? So the admission to heaven is teen sex? Really? The way to overcome deep grief and gain acceptance and peace is.. again, teen sex? Wow. I missed out as a teen because that was NOT my experience. Okay, now louder warning bells should have been going off. But the final issue - she takes over the body of a "friend". Without the girl's knowledge or permission. The "friend" who is a lesbian. And uses her body to have sex with a boy. Just taking over her body is a violation. Taking over her body and using that time to have sex is another violation. And to have sex with a boy, knowing that is the antithesis of everything this "friend" would have wanted or agreed to is yet another violation. What the hell??? And none of that gets brought up or mentioned. No, it is a feel good ending. yeah! I mean, I have some pretty close friends - some I have known for at least triple the time these two girls have "known" each other - and if I somehow managed to just steal their bodies and have sex with a woman?? Well, it would be good for me that I was already dead. That is a betrayal in the worst sense on so many levels it is shocking. And what of the possible consequences? Pregnancy? STDs? Never mind the "lesser" consequences of emotional damage, damage to their friendship, the trust issues, etc etc etc????? After thinking about it more and more, I was truly embarrassed to have not seen these dark and disturbing connotations, made all the worse for the fact that the author serves this up as the feel good ending - not noticing the irony at all of having the main character who was raped and violated in turn rape and violate a friend, while denouncing the first act as a heinous crime and lauding the second act as happy ending? So in short, I have learned my lesson and I am now making more of an effort to truly read and then think about what I am reading!!!

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