“Don’t worry Susie; he has a nice life. He’s trapped in a perfect world.” Too bad it wasn’t a perfect book. The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold is about 14 year old Susie Salmon who was murdered by her neighbour, a quiet but odd man, Mr. Harvey. She soon finds herself in Heaven, a place that has all that you wanted on Earth and more, but she cannot help but let go. She watches her family and friends, grow up and fall apart, grasping onto her memory, albeit too painful for some. She also watches her murderer continue to go about his day, still thriving off the adrenaline of her death.
While in the book store, I thought that this was a brilliant idea for a novel. And it would have been, had it been written properly. Sebold committed a plethora of writing sins; long winded descriptions, cliche after cliche, one dimensional characters, and possibly the greatest sin in my mind, too many unanswered questions. The way she ended the novel also was infuriating. She had single handedly turned the main character from victim to criminal, committing one of the heinous crimes that was done to her. It also seemed that Sebold had taken so much time on other characters that should have really played less of a part, that she had forgotten altogether about Mr. Harvey and then was at a loss of how to bring him to justice. She simply made a foreshadowing mention of his fate half way through the book and that was it.
This novel left me wanting more. Set in the 1970’s, I was left wishing that Sebold had used the political and cultural atmosphere to further enrich the storyline. However, it was only David Cassidy and bright blue eye shadow that link this novel to the time in which it was set. I felt as though Sebold had an abundance of plans and ideas for the storyline and characters, but got lazy and stopped halfway, then haphazardly butchered her way through the rest of the novel, never completing a plot twist, rounding out a character, and ultimately failing to provide closure.
I will say there was a saving grace to this novel. Sebold successfully created an empathetic father in literature. Jack Salmon’s grief is genuine, heartfelt, his determination to find out what happened to his eldest daughter is what you would expect and see from any father whose daughter was murdered. That and the idea (which she ruined with poor writing) are the only things that make this book worth reading. I rate this book 2 out 5.