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Summary and book reviews of The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold

The Lovely Bones

by Alice Sebold

The Lovely Bones
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  • First Published:
    Jun 2002, 288 pages
    Paperback:
    Apr 2004, 352 pages

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Book Summary

A luminous and astonishing novel that builds out of grief the most hopeful of stories. In the hands of a brilliant new writer, this story of the worst thing a family can face is transformed into a suspenseful and even funny novel about love, memory, joy, heaven, and healing.

When we first meet Susie Salmon, she is already in heaven. As she looks down from this strange new place, she tells us, in the fresh and spirited voice of a fourteen-year-old girl, a tale that is both haunting and full of hope.

In the weeks following her death, Susie watches life on Earth continuing without her--her school friends trading rumors about her disappearance, her family holding out hope that she'll be found, her killer trying to cover his tracks. As months pass without leads, Susie sees her parents' marriage being contorted by loss, her sister hardening herself in an effort to stay strong, and her little brother trying to grasp the meaning of the word gone.

And she explores the place called heaven. It looks a lot like her school playground, with the good kind of swing sets. There are counselors to help newcomers adjust and friends to room with. Everything she ever wanted appears as soon as she thinks of it--except the thing she most wants: to be back with the people she loved on Earth.

With compassion, longing, and a growing understanding, Susie sees her loved ones pass through grief and begin to mend. Her father embarks on a risky quest to ensnare her killer. Her sister undertakes a feat of remarkable daring. And the boy Susie cared for moves on, only to find himself at the center of a miraculous event.

The Lovely Bones is luminous and astonishing, a novel that builds out of grief the most hopeful of stories. In the hands of a brilliant new writer, this story of the worst thing a family can face is transformed into a suspenseful and even funny novel about love, memory, joy, heaven, and healing.

O N E

My name was 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.

In my junior high yearbook I had a quote from a Spanish poet my sister had turned me on to, Juan Raman Jimanez. It went like this: "If they give you ruled paper, write the other way." I chose it both because it expressed my contempt for my structured surroundings a la the classroom and because, not being some dopey quote from a rock group, I thought it marked me as literary. I was a member of the Chess Club and Chem Club and burned everything I tried to make in Mrs. Delminico's home ec class. My favorite teacher was Mr. Botte, who taught biology and liked to animate the frogs and ...

Please be aware that this discussion guide may contain spoilers!
  1. In Susie's Heaven, she is surrounded by things that bring her peace. What would your Heaven be like? Is it surprising that in Susie's inward, personal version of the hereafter there is no God or larger being that presides?

  2. Why does Ruth become Susie's main connection to Earth? Was it accidental that Susie touched Ruth on her way up to Heaven, or was Ruth actually chosen to be Susie's emotional conduit?

  3. Rape is one of the most alienating experiences imaginable. Susie's rape ends in murder and changes her family and friends forever. Alienation is transferred, in a sense, to Susie's parents and siblings. How do they each experience loneliness and solitude after Susie's death?

  4. Why does the author include details about Mr. Harvey'...
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Reviews

Media Reviews

Michiko Kakutani, New York Times

Ms. Sebold's achievements her ability to capture both the ordinary and the extraordinary, the banal and the horrific, in lyrical, unsentimental prose; her instinctive understanding of the mathematics of love between parents and children; her gift for making palpable the dreams, regrets and unstilled hopes of one girl and one family.

Time Out New York

First novelist Sebold takes some major artistic risks in her knockout literary murder mystery, THE LOVELY BONES. Her most rewarding gamble is appointing the fourteen-year-old murder victim as her narrator....Amazingly, the book never succumbs to sentimentality nor supernatural silliness. This sparkling debut delivers on two levels as a pins-and-needles crime noir and as an emotionally penetrating family drama.

Publisher's Weekly

Starred Review. A small but far from minor miracle...a story that is both tragic and full of light and grace...full of suspense and written in lithe, resilient prose that by itself delights.

Booklist

Masterful and compelling.... Sebold's beautiful novel shows how a tragedy can tear a family apart, and bring them back together again. She challenges us to re-imagine happy endings, as she brings the novel to a conclusion that is unfalteringly magnificent. And she paints, with an artist's precision, a portrait of a world where the terrible and the miraculous can and do co-exist.

Kirkus Reviews

Mesmerizing and deserving of the attention it's sure to receive.

Author Blurb Michael Chabon, author of The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay
The Lovely Bones is one of the strangest experiences I have had as a reader in a long time, and one of the most memorable. Painfully funny, bracingly tough, terribly sad, it is a feat of imagination and a tribute to the healing power of grief.

Author Blurb Margot Livesey, author of Eva Moves the Furniture
What a wonderful writer Alice Sebold is. Out of darkness she makes light, out of despair and violence, beauty, out of deep loss a peculiar, hard-won gain. All her characters, for good or ill, travel to surprising places, and so do we, her extremely fortunate readers.

Author Blurb Amy Bloom, author of A Blind Man Can See How Much I Love You
Set in a heaven as real and possible as the earth is mysterious and shifting, The Lovely Bones explores, with clear-eyed affection and wit, the romance of family life, the shy, funny turbulence of adolescence, and the painful tracks love and loss make through our world.

Author Blurb Aimee Bender, author of An Invisible Sign of My Own
The Lovely Bones is the kind of novel that, once you're done, you may go visit while wandering through a bookstore and touch on the binding, just to remember the emotions you felt while reading it. Intensely wise and gorgeously written, The Lovely Bones is a heartbreaking page-turner. I envy the reader who is about to jump into the world of Susie Salmon and her incredible family.

Author Blurb Heidi Julavits, author of The Mineral Palace
Sebold ingeniously, and with great humor and bluntness, distorts the typical coming-of-age story-her Susie Salmon, a winsome teenager, is already dead. Yet The Lovely Bones achieves a delightfulness, a buoyancy, a darkly addictive charm, precisely because Sebold never shirks her raw emotional duties toward this aggrieved family, this murdered girl.

Author Blurb Alice Elliott Dark, author of Think of England and In the Gloaming
In The Lovely Bones, Alice Sebold depicts both heaven and earth with such skill that the many surprises in this book feel believable and familiar. I read every word with pleasure and admiration. The Singhs and the Salmons will be in my thoughts for a long time.

Author Blurb Joanna Scott, author ofMake Believe
"This is an extraordinary novel, deeply unsettling, beautiful, tender, unbearably sad, wise, with the author in absolute control of what would be moral chaos in the hands of most other writers."

Author Blurb Anna Quindlen
If you only have time to read one book this summer, it's The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold.

Author Blurb Lynn Freed, author of House of Women
Alice Sebold achieves something extraordinary in this novel she makes manifest, in a beautifully written and complex story full of love and hope, the utter banality of evil.

Author Blurb Karen Joy Fowler, author of Sister Noon
Alice Sebold's first novel is amazing. Careful and courageous, original and profound, The Lovely Bones spins the most painful subject imaginable into pure gold. The beginning is chilling, the ending gorgeous; there is no way to put it down in between. Reading it is a gift!

Author Blurb Elaine Petrocelli, bookseller, Book Passage
I can't begin to tell you how much I enjoyed The Lovely Bones. Alice Sebold brings Susie to life-even as she looks down from heaven. And she never loses the voice and point of view-not an easy feat in such an original story. I can't wait to start telling people that they must read The Lovely Bones. Thanks for letting me have an early look at this treasure.

Author Blurb Jonathan Franzen, author of The Corrections
Sebold has given us a fantasy-fable of great authority, charm, and daring. She's a one-of-a-kind writer.

Reader Reviews

Gabbie_Ruth99

My Point!!!
I never read the book but from everything I have heard about the book and reading the summary it interest me a lot. I never imagined reading a summary and relating so much to it without even reading the book myself. I hope to finally read the book ...   Read More

Amanda Rodriguez

The Lovely Bones
Alice Sebold’s first novel, The Lovely Bones, is a thrilling yet emotionally sentimental fiction story. The story opens with the voice of fourteen-year-old Susie Salmon who tells of her rape and murder by her neighbor. The major thriller of the novel...   Read More

Reader

" The Lovely Bones" review
The book " The Lovely Bones" is a great book for anyone who likes to read suspense novels and that enjoy types of novels with tragic happenings. I'm not quite done with the " The Lovely Bones", but I can say that it is a great ...   Read More

Karen Trevino

Great Book
The “Lovely Bones”, written by Alice Sebold, is a book about how difficult it was for a family to cope with the loss of a child due to a violent crime. Susie Salmon was a 14- year-old girl who was raped and killed by her neighbor, a serial killer of ...   Read More

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