The Lovely Bones
My rating: 2 of 5 stars
Susie Salmon is murdered at age fourteen, and watches from an in-between-heaven-like place as her family grieves and tries to pick up the pieces after her death.
“If you stop asking why you were killed instead of someone else, stop investigating the vacuum left by your loss, stop wondering what everyone left on Earth is feeling… you can be free. Simply put, you have to give up on Earth.”
I vaguely remember watching a movie trailer for this at some point and somehow got it into my head that this was a ghost story/murder mystery. Hopefully this review will stop anyone else from making the same mistake, as that is NOT what this book is about and readers going into it with that assumption will be as disappointed as I was. It is, instead, a story of how a family and town moves on after a girl has been murdered. Like Susie herself, we follow around her parents, friends, and the murderer himself as they grieve, work through the reverberations of her death, and move on with their lives — simply not my kind of story.
There was one scene near the beginning that I found touching, when the father is trying to explain death to Susie’s younger brother using a board game as an analogy. Maybe it’s because I love board games, but I thought it was kind of bittersweet and cute. (Did we ever find out what happened to Susie’s Monopoloy piece? Did I miss that somehow?)
I was willing to overlook the lack of plot (it obviously is just not an action-heavy story line) and to write off the metaphor-heavy writing style (including doozies like the pupil of her eyes being described as “ferocious olives” and a kiss being described as a beautiful accident, “like gasoline rainbows” — both which had me scratching my head). I could forgive the flow-of-consciousness storytelling that would unceremoniously jump from present to past and character to character with little lead-up or connection and insert random, unrelated tidbits at the ends of paragraphs. I could even ignore the really weird mom-has-affair-with-police-detective subplot that creeped me out. What I couldn’t get past, though, was the incident that happened at the end of the book where (SPOILERS) Susie inhabits another girl a la Patrick Swayze in “Ghost” in order to have sex with a boy she had a crush on nearly a decade earlier, before she died. I found this whole situation incredibly disturbing, even more so because it’s set up as the climax of the novel, the catalyst which finally allows Susie to feel fulfilled enough to move on to eternity. I still have the heebie-jeebies just thinking about it.
Overall: Commentary on death, despair, and the afterlife, with a plethora of metaphors, but — sorry guys — no thrilling murder mystery here.