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8 Local Warehouse Literature- A to Z

The Lovely Bones


The Lovely Bones Cover



Reading Group Guide

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's childhood and his memories of his mother? By giving him a human side, does Sebold get us closer to understanding his motivation? Sebold explained in an interview about the novel that murderers "are not animals but men," and that is what makes them so frightening. Do you agree?

5. Discuss the way in which guilt manifests itself in the various characters - Jack, Abigail, Lindsay, Mr. Harvey, Len Fenerman.

6. "Pushing on the inbetween" is how Susie describes her efforts to connect with those she has left behind on Earth. Have you ever felt as though someone was trying to communicate with you from "the inbetween"?

7. Does Buckley really see Susie, or does he make up a version of his sister as a way of understanding, and not being too emotionally damaged by, her death? How do you explain tragedy to a child? Do you think Susie's parents do a good job of helping Buckley comprehend the loss of his sister?

8. Susie is killed just as she was beginning to see her mother and father as real people, not just as parents. Watching her parents' relationship change in the wake of her death, she begins to understand how they react to the world and to each other. How does this newfound understanding affect Susie?

9. Can Abigail's choice to leave her family be justified?

10. Why does Abigail leave her dead daughter's photo outside the Chicago Airport on her way back to her family?

11. Susie observes that "The living deserve attention, too." She watches her sister, Lindsay, being neglected as those around her focus all their attention on grieving for Susie. Jack refuses to allow Buckley to use Susie's clothes in his garden. When is it time to let go?

12. Susie's Heaven seems to have different stages, and climbing to the next stage of Heaven requires her to remove herself from what happens on Earth. What is this process like for Susie?

13. In The Lovely Bones , adult relationships (Abigail and Jack, Ray's parents) are dysfunctional and troubled, whereas the young relationships (Lindsay and Samuel, Ray and Susie, Ray and Ruth) all seem to have depth, maturity, and potential. What is the author saying about young love? About the trials and tribulations of married life?

14. Is Jack Salmon allowing himself to be swallowed up by his grief? Is there a point where he should have let go? How does his grief process affect his family? Is there something admirable about holding on so tightly to Susie's memory and not denying his profound sadness?

15. Ray and Susie's final physical experience (via Ruth's body) seems to act almost as an exorcism that sweeps away, if only temporarily, Susie's memory of her rape. What is the significance of this act for Susie, and does it serve to counterbalance the violent act that ended Susie's life?

16. Alice Sebold seems to be saying that out of tragedy comes healing. Susie's family fractures and comes back together, a town learns to find strength in each other. Do you agree that good can come of great trauma?

What Our Readers Are Saying

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Average customer rating based on 8 comments:

graciegram, January 24, 2011 (view all comments by graciegram)
I was drawn into this book from the start by the unusual perspective of telling the story from the point of view of the deceased. A young girl is brutally killed and she looks over and down on her family members as they go on about their lives. A very compelling read!
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BookLoverST, December 9, 2009 (view all comments by BookLoverST)
The Lovely Bones will premiere tonight in Sydney, and I can't wait.

This movie reminds me very much of a novel (and upcoming film) that I loved and am anticipating, Forgiving Ararat. Both stories centered on the concept of life-after-death. Because of Forgiving Ararat, I'm full of hope for Lovely Bones.

If you've read and loved Lovely Bones, you'll love Forgiving Ararat.
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anelagal, September 15, 2009 (view all comments by anelagal)
The Lovely Bones was my first choice to read out of nine different books. I thought it would be interesting, since it was coming from the point of view of a murdered girl. Another aspect that made me want to chose it was that the murdered girl was a teenager and close to my age. I wanted to know what was going to end up happening to the family, as well as the victim herself.
Before I was even half way through the book, I realized that it really was worth my time to read. I usually find books a waste of time and of my life. However, this one really struck me as I read it. The author described the scenes extremely thoroughly and painted very vivid images in my mind as the words on the page seemed to become more of a reality than a fantasy. The murder scene at the very beginning of the book that set up the whole story opened up my eyes in ways I would have never imagined. It was as if a part of my heart had been reserved to feel pain and sorrow for this poor fourteen-year-old girl.
First off, Susie Salmon tells us who she is, when she was murdered, and how old she was. Then she goes off to tell us who the murderer, Mr. Harvey, was and describe the horrible night in a cornfield when she lost everything that she had and had ever wanted. Her life, family, and friends. She then tells all of the misfortunate, as well as fortunate, events that happened in her family, friends, and acquaintances’ lives during her absence. As long as she was in her heaven, there was little she could do to tell them exactly what happened on that horrid night.
This book really made me wonder if I felt like I was spending my life correctly or in a way that I wouldn’t be wasting it. I enjoyed the mass amount of life messages in the book, as well. To me, I saw the author’s message as a mixture of two. One—Never take anything for granted. Two—Life is too short to waste any time. After reading this book, I’ve really begun to take in all aspects of life more fully, looking at the saying, “Every day a question mark.”
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Product Details

Adams, Terry
Back Bay Books
Sebold, Alice
Teenage girls
Crimes against
Domestic fiction
Psychological fiction
Literature-A to Z
Publication Date:
8.29x5.44x.99 in. .72 lbs.

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The Lovely Bones Used Trade Paper
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Product details 328 pages Back Bay Books - English 9780316168816 Reviews:
"Staff Pick" by ,

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.

"Review A Day" by , "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.'" (read the entire CSM review)
"Review" by , "[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."
"Review" by , "Intensely wise and gorgeously written, The Lovely Bones is a heart-breaking page-turner..."
"Review" by , "Sebold has given us a fantasy-fable of great authority, charm, and daring. She's a one-of-a-kind writer."
"Review" by , "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."
"Review" by , "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."
"Review" by , "[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."
"Review" by , "[P]ainfully funny, terribly sad, it is a feat of imagination and a tribute to the healing power of grief."
"Review" by , "[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."
"Review" by , "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..."
"Review" by , "If you only have time to read one book this summer, it's The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold."
"Synopsis" by , 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.
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