Gripping tale of life, death: ‘Bones’ prevails

Christina Dasher

If you have any time for pleasure reading now that midterms are over, you may want to choose one of this year’s best-sellers, “The Lovely Bones,” by Alice Sebold. This book can best be described as a quick and compelling read based on chilling and powerful events. The reader is left with food for thought about the pain of loss and the quest to find peace and meaning. The book immediately grabs the readers’ attention because they are made aware of the killer from the very beginning. Sebold enlightens the reader at the start of the book that the murderer “had lived among them, passed them on the street, bought Girl Scout cookies from their daughters and magazine subscriptions from their sons.”

The narratives that compose “The Lovely Bones” resonate between heaven and earth as the reader is taken into the world of 14-year-old Susie Salmon looking down on her family and watching them as they grieve over her death. From Susie’s heaven she observes life as it goes on without her. Her father undertakes a relentless pursuit to avenge the man responsible for his daughter’s brutal murder.

Susie watches him become consumed by exhaustion: “He had apologized to me in his notebook. ‘I need to rest, honey. I need to understand how to go after this man. I hope you’ll understand.’” Her father’s frustration mounts when he is rendered helpless by law and is unable to convince the police and his family that his theory about Susie’s killer is correct.

Susie vicariously follows her younger sister’s courageous coming-of-age. Lindsay Salmon becomes “the girl whose sister was murdered” and hardens as a reaction to the harsh realities of her life; nonetheless, she rises to the occasion and takes on a daring endeavor to help solve the mystery that has plagued her for years. Susie must also confront the grief that threatens the solidarity of her parents’ marriage. Finally, she comes to terms with the inevitable dissociation from earth by realizing that her purpose is fulfilled and her place belongs in heaven.

This book is a page-turner due to its suspenseful plot and thoughtful writing. Although the book could have been condensed at times and the ending might leave something to be desired, Sebold realistically depicts what happens to a family suffering from the loss of a loved one, while painting a picture of hope and embracing the resiliency of the human spirit. This book illustrates that the dead, like the living, must come to terms with the fact that they are in two separate worlds. This powerful message is portrayed through Sebold’s description: “You don’t notice the dead leaving when they really choose to leave you … I would compare it to a woman in the back of a lecture hall or theater whom no one notices until she slips out.”