Lovely Bones

I know I’m a little late to the party on this book and I must admit the only reason I read it was because of a book club.  However, before my review, I first want to discuss what the book was about.  Quite simply, it’s a tale told from the perspective of a fourteen year old girl named Susie after she was killed.  Raped, murdered, dismembered, she now looks down upon her family from Heaven and is telling us the story of those she loves as they still live as well as her experiences in her own Heaven.

If this sounds at all familiar that’s because it does strike me as a more updated version of “Our Town” [albeit the death itself was less dramatic].  The narration is all done in the first person omniscient [being dead apparently has its benefits] and so we are privy to all matter of information.  While things seem to progress along a certain time line, it feels rather not plot driven, but character driven.  Overwhelmingly this is a tale of grief, that of the person who did not have the opportunity to live life to adulthood, and all those individuals whose lives she had touched while she was on Earth.

The hook was gripping:

My name as Salmon, like the fish; first name, Susie.  I was fourteen when I was murdered on December 6,1973.  In newspaper photos of missing girls from the seventies, most looked like me: white girls with mousy brown hair.  This was before kids of all races and genders started appearing on milk cartons or in the daily mail.  It was still back when people believed things like that didn’t happen.

The rape sequence was articulate and horrifying:

I felt huge and bloated.  I felt like a sea in which he stood and pissed and shat.  I felt the corners of my body were turning in on themselves and out, like in cat’s cradle, which I played with Lindsey just to make her happy.

And even though the reader is always aware that this information is coming through the narrator’s vicarious experience of the people whom are still living, the shifts into each person’s mind and thoughts is done flawlessly.  The only complaint about this it would be the arduous flashbacks.  In the beginning of the book it is done quite effectively.  The moments it occurs are of gravity and they serve to deepen the readers’ connection with the storyteller, but when this technique is overused the emotional punch wanes.  Take, for instance, a scene in which Susie’s sister, Lindsey, is searching the house of the murderer.  The scene is fraught with appropriate tension and then we get this:

She couldn’t stop the memories slamming into her.  Every one had a brutal report.  Buckley [their younger brother] riding piggyback on my shoulders down the stairs.  Our mother steadying me as Lindsey looked on, jealous that I could reach, with the silver star in my hands, the top of the Christmas tree.  Me sliding down the banister and asking her to join.

Where I start thinking “will she be caught?” I wind up  hearing about a flashback that, intent wise, had already been done several times to greater effect.

Still, this is a very easy and emotional read I have no qualm in recommending to people.  Have you read it?  Will you?

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21 responses to “Lovely Bones

  • Jes Mauldin

    I have read this book twice. I seem to be drawn to main characters in peril. This book had a lot of familiar undertones in similar pieces of literature. I don’t believe I will be watching the movie anytime soon though.

    • kimberlyloomis

      Jes, I’m the same way with main characters. Although no amount of peril will keep me interested if the character is annoying or flat. Totally with you about the movie.

  • Teresa

    I too have read Lovely Bones. The book made me feel very uncomfortable, but I think was written brilliantly. I love love love the intro hook. That’s my favorite.

    • kimberlyloomis

      Teresa – Couldn’t agree with you more on this one. The intro was engrossing from the first. It’s very rare for me to be sucked into a book so quickly.

  • laurelrainsnow

    I loved this book, but I didn’t see the movie…yet. I thought it might somehow spoil the reading experience for me. Sometimes movies are disappointing.

    But then recently, someone reviewed the movie on a blog, so I’m thinking I will give it a whirl.

    Thanks for your review.

    • kimberlyloomis

      Laurel – I feel the same way. If the actors intrigue me or if I LOVED the book I’ll usually partake of the movie anyway (I have The Road sitting on top of my TV now), but this one I feel content to have experienced only in print.

  • Laura Marcella

    I read it several years ago. The story was compelling, the writing lovely, and I was invested in the characters. I’m glad I read it once, but I couldn’t ever read it again. I finished the book feeling just awful. I won’t see the movie either.

    • kimberlyloomis

      Laura – I felt the same way. Glad I read it and more than content to not read it ever again. Truth be told I thought the ending was a bit flat and a wee hokey for me leaving a less than wonderful taste on my palate.

  • Arlee Bird

    My wife and I saw the movie and both liked it very much. I enjoyed the surrealism of many of the scenes and thought the story was well told even though it was highly manipulitive, which worked okay for me.

    One of my daughters who had read and liked the book very much said she was pleased with the way the transferance from book to film was done. She said she was apprehensive about seeing the movie, but afterward said that though many things were different, the essence of the spirit of the story was capture pretty effectively.

    Lee
    Tossing It Out

    • kimberlyloomis

      Lee – Now you have me thinking I might watch the movie! Perhaps I’ll add it to the bottom of the queue for now lest I get caught up in my “but it happened *this* way in the book” mindset. Glad to hear the movie was faithful to the spirit of the printed work, though.

  • martha drummond

    One of the things that had struck me after reading this book a few months ago, was in the description of the fluidity of family relationships, as in the loving/conflicted relationship of the parents and grandmother’s integration back into the family. I am always struck by an individuals abililty to pick up the broken pieces and integrate them into an ever evolving life. I started to read this author’s other book, “Almost Moon” and had emotional difficulty getting into it. The plot was simply too upsetting for me. Have you looked at that book???

    Martha Drummond

    • kimberlyloomis

      Martha – I haven’t checked out her other work yet. Honestly, I keep hearing mixed reviews about it and so have been quite reluctant to make such a venture. Once I’m done with this round of library books, however, I might check it out. Your description of what was well done in this work, I think, is dead on. The relationships are truly what sung for me as well.

  • DL Hammons

    I’ve not read the book…but watched the movie on DVD…and have to say I was under-whelmed. But movies rarely capture the magic of the written word.

    • kimberlyloomis

      DL- You’re absolutely right. There are some film adaptations I can appreciate (Lord of the Rings comes to mind), some better than the book (Last of the Mohicans) while the rest fall remarkably short. I’ll have to post next week about my impressions of “The Road” as I’m watching that tonight.

  • Jemi Fraser

    My daughter really enjoyed this book. She suggested I not read it – she knows I’m a total wimp and just can’t stop sobbing with these kinds 🙂

  • Lua

    Great review Kimberly! I agree with you, the hook is very gripping and the plot is very original.
    This is one of those ‘love the book but the movie? Not so much…’ cases for me.
    The story was a difficult one to tell, in my opinion, but it was told brilliantly.

  • Corra McFeydon

    I’ve read this one. I thought the book was pretty good, but a bit dark. I agree with your thoughts about the flashbacks. It seemed to drag after a while — that’s what made it feel so dark, I think. Not enough forward-throttle as the story progressed and the tension mounted.

    I did like it, though. I think the comparison to ‘Our Town’ can’t be helped. There are only so many plots. 😉

    Thanks for sharing!

  • Carol Kilgore

    This book was on my list to read, and ended up being one of those I still haven’t found at the right time. I’d still like to read it one day.

  • ElliotGrace

    …it’s a must read, but if hindsight were 20/20, I’d leave the dvd on Wal-Mart’s shelf. Not that it was terrible by any means. My problem was that after reading the book and visualizing every scene which was so perfectly described with a voice capable of untapped wonders, watching the movie, featuring someone else’s take on the story, it felt like sipping a cola which had gone flat.
    Great job on the review:)

  • Tina DC Hayes

    I read this a year or so ago and really liked it. The story is still pretty fresh in my mind, which points to a talented author. Movies are never as good as the books they’re inspired by, IMHO, but I also liked the film for this one. (I was curious to see how they would handle the heaven scenes and wasn’t disappointed 🙂 )

  • Anne

    I haven’t read it, but I think I’d like it.

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