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The Lovely Bonesby Alice Sebold
By the time The Lovely Bones landed on bookstore shelves it had become the most highly anticipated book of the season. Then came the astonishingly enthusiastic critical response. Within two months, a million copies were in print. Still, readers encountering a simple plot summary might be tempted to turn away. Newspapers offer enough tragedy these days; do we really have time and energy for dark, tragic fiction? Consider those apprehensions dismissed: Sebold's debut fiction is an unflinching, graceful gift of a novel, an invigorating, expansive work of storytelling that should not work, but magically does.
"Don't start Lovely Bones unless you can finish it. The book begins with more horror than you could imagine, but closes with more beauty than you could hope for....But emotionally, it's faultless. Sebold never slips as she follows this family. The risks she walks are enough to give you vertigo. A victim of rape herself when she was in college, she includes some deadly satire of the shallow advice people offer in the face of great loss. There is no "moving on," and time alone won't bring relief either. That only comes through the hard work of learning to care for the living while cradling the memory of this loved one. As her father eventually realizes, 'You live in the face of it.'" Ron Charles, The Christian Science Monitor (read the entire CSM review)
Synopses & Reviews
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.
"[A] small but far from minor miracle....[A] story that is both tragic and full of light and grace....Sebold maintains [a] delicate balance between homely and horrid....[F]ull of suspense and written in lithe, resilient prose that by itself delights." Publishers Weekly
"Intensely wise and gorgeously written, The Lovely Bones is a heart-breaking page-turner..." Aimee Bender, author of An Invisible Sign of My Own
"Sebold has given us a fantasy-fable of great authority, charm, and daring. She's a one-of-a-kind writer." Jonathan Franzen, author of The Corrections
"Few novels, debut or otherwise, are as masterful or as compelling as Sebold's....[A] beautiful novel....[Sebold] 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." Kristine Huntley, Booklist
"An extraordinary, almost-successful debut that treats sensational material with literary grace....[A] thoroughly engaging voice....Works beautifully for so long as Susie simply tells the truth, then falters when the author goes for bigger truths about Love and Life. Still, mostly mesmerizing and deserving of the attention it's sure to receive." Kirkus Reviews
"[A] keenly observed portrait of familial love....[A] deeply affecting meditation on the ways in which terrible pain and loss can be redeemed through love and acceptance." Michiko Kakutani, The New York Times
"[P]ainfully funny, terribly sad, it is a feat of imagination and a tribute to the healing power of grief." Michael Chabon, author of The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay
"[A] powerful first novel....Sebold's compelling and sometimes poetic prose style and unsparing vision transform Susie's tragedy into an ultimately rewarding novel. Highly recommended." Library Journal
"Almost everything that makes The Lovely Bones the breakout fiction debut of the year — the sweetness, the humor, the kicky rhythm, the deadpan suburban gothic — is...packed into [the] first two lines, under pressure and waiting to explode....Sebold...imagines the unimaginable and in doing so reminds us that...missing girls aren't just tabloid icons or martyred innocents but real human beings..." Lev Grossman, Time magazine
"If you only have time to read one book this summer, it's The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold." Anna Quindlen, author of One True Thing and Black and Blue
Now in paperback: Alice Sebold's luminous first novel--one of the most celebrated literary debuts of recent seasons--that builds out of a family's grief the most hopeful and joyful of stories.
When we first meet 14-year-old Susie Salmon, she is already in heaven. This was before milk carton photos and public service announcements, she tells us; back in 1973, when Susie mysteriously disappeared, people still believed these things didn't happen. In the sweet, untroubled voice of a precocious teenage girl, Susie relates the awful events of her death and her own adjustment to the strange new place she finds herself. It looks a lot like her school playground, with the good kind of swing sets. With love, longing, and a growing understanding, Susie watches her family as they cope with their grief, her father embarks on a search for the killer, her sister undertakes a feat of amazing daring, her little brother builds a fort in her honor and begin the difficult process of healing. In the hands of a brilliant novelist, this story of seemingly unbearable tragedy is transformed into a suspenseful and touching story about family, memory, love, heaven, and living.
About the Author
Alice Sebold is the author of the memoir Lucky. She has been chosen by the Village Voice as a Writer on the Verge and has written for the New York Times and the Chicago Tribune. She lives in California with her husband, Glen David Gold.
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