Wednesday, February 10, 2010
The Lovely Bones: Alice Sebold
When The Lovely Bones first hit bookstores a few years ago, I was curious about it, but ultimately decided to skip it. As a general rule I don’t go in for a lot of gore, so reading about the rape and murder of a teenage girl wasn’t the least bit appealing. However, in my spare time I’m also a movie buff. So when I saw that The Lovely Bones was going to be made into a movie (with Stanley Tucci!), I bit the bullet and ordered myself a copy. My overall opinion is that I wasn’t missing much by not reading it.
The Lovely Bones is disturbing and gory. Which are actually testaments to the great writing of Alice Sebold. I’m just not sure it’s a great book. The story was sometimes uncomfortable to read. And rather than be about the search for Susie Salmon’s killer, it’s about what happens to a family and community after the death of a young girl, which was only interesting for about a hundred pages. The family reaction was fairly cliché—the parents grow distanced when one of them becomes obsessed with finding Susie’s killer. Her siblings fall into the shadows as the sad survivors of a family torn apart by the loss of a child. And Susie’s friends from school react by finding solace in each other, which feels a little uncomfortable in itself.
I think that what makes this story silver-screen-worthy is that it’s believable. We have become all-too-familiar with the reality of the neighborhood sociopath who preys on our children. What Sebold has managed is to make Susie’s killer dimensional. He is cold and calculating, but she gives him thought processes and determined decisions that effectively bring him to life. If it weren’t for Sebold’s writing skill, I don’t think this book would have made it beyond the thrillers section into the best-selling shelves it stands on today.