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Once in a generation a novel comes along that taps a vein of universal human experience, resonating with readers of all ages. The Lovely Bones is such a book - a phenomenal #1 bestseller celebrated at once for its narrative artistry, its luminous clarity of emotion, and its astoniishing power to lay claim to the hearts of millions of ...
Once in a generation a novel comes along that taps a vein of universal human experience, resonating with readers of all ages. The Lovely Bones is such a book - a phenomenal #1 bestseller celebrated at once for its narrative artistry, its luminous clarity of emotion, and its astoniishing power to lay claim to the hearts of millions of readers around the world.
"My name was Salmon, like the fish; first name, Susie. I was fourteen when I was murdered on December 6, 1973."
So begins the story of Susie Salmon, who is adjusting to her new home in heaven, a place that is not at all what she expected, even as she is watching life on eath continue without her - her friends trading rumors about her disappearance, her killer trying to cover his tracks, her grief-stricken family unraveling.
Out of unspeakable traged and loss, The Lovely Bones succeeds, miraculously, in building a tale filled with hope, humor, suspense, even joy
"A stunning achievement." -The New Yorker
"Deeply affecting. . . . A keenly observed portrait of familial love and how it endures and changes over time." -New York Times
"A triumphant novel. . . . It's a knockout." -Time
"Destined to become a classic in the vein of To Kill a Mockingbird. . . . I loved it." -Anna Quindlen
"A novel that is painfully fine and accomplished." -Los Angeles Times
"The Lovely Bones seems to be saying there are more important things in life on earth than retribution. Like forgiveness, like love." -Chicago Tribune
Copyright © 2007 Alice Sebold
All right reserved.
My name was Salmon, like the fish; first name, Susie. I was fourteen when I was murdered on December 6, 1973. In newspaper photos of missing girls from the seventies, most looked like me: white girls with mousy brown hair. This was before kids of all races and genders started appearing on milk cartons or in the daily mail. It was still back when people believed things like that didn't happen.
In my junior high yearbook I had a quote from a Spanish poet my sister had turned me on to, Juan Ramsn Jiminez. It went like this: "If they give you ruled paper, write the other way." I chose it both because it expressed my contempt for my structured surroundings ? la the classroom and because, not being some dopey quote from a rock group, I thought it marked me as literary. I was a member of the Chess Club and Chem Club and burned everything I tried to make in Mrs. Delminico's home ec class. My favorite teacher was Mr. Botte, who taught biology and liked to animate the frogs and crawfish we had to dissect by making them dance in their waxed pans.
I wasn't killed by Mr. Botte, by the way. Don't think every person you're going to meet in here is suspect. That's the problem. You never know. Mr. Botte came to my memorial (as, may I add, did almost the entire junior high school-I was never so popular)and cried quite a bit. He had a sick kid. We all knew this, so when he laughed at his own jokes, which were rusty way before I had him, we laughed too, forcing it sometimes just to make him happy. His daughter died a year and a half after I did. She had leukemia, but I never saw her in my heaven.
My murderer was a man from our neighborhood. My mother liked his border flowers, and my father talked to him once about fertilizer. My murderer believed in old-fashioned things like eggshells and coffee grounds, which he said his own mother had used. My father came home smiling, making jokes about how the man's garden might be beautiful but it would stink to high heaven once a heat wave hit.
But on December 6, 1973, it was snowing, and I took a shortcut through the cornfield back from the junior high. It was dark out because the days were shorter in winter, and I remember how the broken cornstalks made my walk more difficult. The snow was falling lightly, like a flurry of small hands, and I was breathing through my nose until it was running so much that I had to open my mouth. Six feet from where Mr. Harvey stood, I stuck my tongue out to taste a snowflake.
"Don't let me startle you," Mr. Harvey said. Of course, in a cornfield, in the dark, I was startled. After I was dead I thought about how there had been the light scent of cologne in the air but that I had not been paying attention, or thought it was coming from one of the houses up ahead.
"Mr. Harvey," I said. "You're the older Salmon girl, right?" "Yes." "How are your folks?"
Although the eldest in my family and good at acing a science quiz, I had never felt comfortable with adults.
"Fine," I said. I was cold, but the natural authority of his age, and the added fact that he was a neighbor and had talked to my father about fertilizer, rooted me to the spot.
"I've built something back here," he said. "Would you like to see?"
"I'm sort of cold, Mr. Harvey," I said, "and my mom likes me home before dark."
"It's after dark, Susie," he said.
I wish now that I had known this was weird. I had never told him my name. I guess I thought my father had told him one of the embarrassing anecdotes he saw merely as loving testaments to his children. My father was the kind of dad who kept a nude photo of you when you were three in the downstairs bathroom, the one that guests would use. He did this to my little sister, Lindsey, thank God. At least I was spared that indignity. But he liked to tell a story about how, once Lindsey was born, I was so jealous that one day while he was on the phone in the other room, I moved down the couch-he could see me from where he stood-and tried to pee on top of Lindsey in her carrier. This story humiliated me every time he told it, to the pastor of our church, to our neighbor Mrs. Stead, who was a therapist and whose take on it he wanted to hear, and to everyone who ever said "Susie has a lot of spunk!"
"Spunk!" my father would say. "Let me tell you about spunk," and he would launch immediately into his Susie-peed-on-Lindsey story.
But as it turned out, my father had not mentioned us to Mr. Harvey or told him the Susie-peed-on-Lindsey story. Mr. Harvey would later say these words to my mother when he ran into her on the street: "I heard about the horrible, horrible tragedy. What was your daughter's name, again?"
"Susie," my mother said, bracing up under the weight of it, a weight that she naively hoped might lighten someday, not knowing that it would only go on to hurt in new and varied ways for the rest of her life.
Mr. Harvey told her the usual: "I hope they get the bastard. I'm sorry for your loss."
I was in my heaven by that time, fitting my limbs together, and couldn't believe his audacity. "The man has no shame," I said to Franny, my intake counselor. "Exactly," she said, and made her point as simply as that. There wasn't a lot of bullshit in my heaven.
Mr. Harvey said it would only take a minute, so I followed him a little farther into the cornfield, where fewer stalks were broken off because no one used it as a shortcut to the junior high. My mom had told my baby brother, Buckley, that the corn in the field was inedible when he asked why no one from the neighborhood ate it. "The corn is for horses, not humans," she said. "Not dogs?" Buckley asked. "No," my mother answered. "Not dinosaurs?" Buckley asked. And it went like that.
"I've made a little hiding place," said Mr. Harvey. He stopped and turned to me.
"I don't see anything," I said. I was aware that Mr. Harvey was looking at me strangely. I'd had older men look at me that way since I'd lost my baby fat, but they usually didn't lose their marbles over me when I was wearing my royal blue parka and yellow elephant bell-bottoms. His glasses were small and round with gold frames, and his eyes looked out over them and at me.
"You should be more observant, Susie," he said. I felt like observing my way out of there, but I didn't. Why didn't I? Franny said these questions were fruitless: "You didn't and that's that. Don't mull it over. It does no good. You're dead and you have to accept it."
"Try again," Mr. Harvey said, and he squatted down and knocked against the ground.
"What's that?" I asked. My ears were freezing. I wouldn't wear the multicolored cap with the pompom and jingle bells that my mother had made me one Christmas. I had shoved it in the pocket of my parka instead. I remember that I went over and stomped on the ground near him. It felt harder even than frozen earth, which was pretty hard. "It's wood," Mr. Harvey said. "It keeps the entrance from collapsing. Other than that it's all made out of earth." "What is it?" I asked. I was no longer cold or weirded out by the look he had given me. I was like I was in science class: I was curious.
"Come and see."
It was awkward to get into, that much he admitted once we were both inside the hole. But I was so amazed by how he had made a chimney that would draw smoke out if he ever chose to build a fire that the awkwardness of getting in and out of the hole wasn't even on my mind. You could add to that that escape wasn't a concept I had any real experience with. The worst I'd had to escape was Artie, a strange-looking kid at school whose father was a mortician. He liked to pretend he was carrying a needle full of embalming fluid around with him. On his notebooks he would draw needles spilling dark drips.
"This is neato!" I said to Mr. Harvey. He could have been the hunchback of Notre Dame, whom we had read about in French class. I didn't care. I completely reverted. I was my brother Buckley on our day-trip to the Museum of Natural History in New York, where he'd fallen in love with the huge skeletons on display. I hadn't used the word neato in public since elementary school.
"Like taking candy from a baby," Franny said.
I can still see the hole like it was yesterday, and it was. Life is a perpetual yesterday for us. It was the size of a small room, the mud room in our house, say, where we kept our boots and slickers and where Mom had managed to fit a washer and dryer, one on top of the other. I could almost stand up in it, but Mr. Harvey had to stoop. He'd created a bench along the sides of it by the way he'd dug it out. He immediately sat down. "Look around," he said.
I stared at it in amazement, the dug-out shelf above him where he had placed matches, a row of batteries, and a battery-powered fluorescent lamp that cast the only light in the room-an eerie light that would make his features hard to see when he was on top of me.
There was a mirror on the shelf, and a razor and shaving cream. I thought that was odd. Wouldn't he do that at home? But I guess I figured that a man who had a perfectly good split-level and then built an underground room only half a mile away had to be kind of loo-loo. My father had a nice way of describing people like him: "The man's a character, that's all."
So I guess I was thinking that Mr. Harvey was a character, and I liked the room, and it was warm, and I wanted to know how he had built it, what the mechanics of the thing were and where he'd learned to do something like that.
But by the time the Gilberts' dog found my elbow three days later and brought it home with a telling corn husk attached to it, Mr. Harvey had closed it up. I was in transit during this. I didn't get to see him sweat it out, remove the wood reinforcement, bag any evidence along with my body parts, except that elbow. By the time I popped up with enough wherewithal to look down at the goings-on on Earth, I was more concerned with my family than anything else.
My mother sat on a hard chair by the front door with her mouth open. Her pale face paler than I had ever seen it. Her blue eyes staring. My father was driven into motion. He wanted to know details and to comb the cornfield along with the cops. I still thank God for a small detective named Len Fenerman. He assigned two uniforms to take my dad into town and have him point out all the places I'd hung out with my friends. The uniforms kept my dad busy in one mall for the whole first day. No one had told Lindsey, who was thirteen and would have been old enough, or Buckley, who was four and would, to be honest, never fully understand.
Mr. Harvey asked me if I would like a refreshment. That was how he put it. I said I had to go home.
"Be polite and have a Coke," he said. "I'm sure the other kids would."
"What other kids?" "I built this for the kids in the neighborhood. I thought it could be some sort of clubhouse."
I don't think I believed this even then. I thought he was lying, but I thought it was a pitiful lie. I imagined he was lonely. We had read about men like him in health class. Men who never married and ate frozen meals every night and were so afraid of rejection that they didn't even own pets. I felt sorry for him.
"Okay," I said, "I'll have a Coke." In a little while he said, "Aren't you warm, Susie? Why don't you take off your parka."
I did. After this he said, "You're very pretty, Susie." "Thanks," I said, even though he gave me what my friend Clarissa and I had dubbed the skeevies. "Do you have a boyfriend?"
"No, Mr. Harvey," I said. I swallowed the rest of my Coke, which was a lot, and said, "I got to go, Mr. Harvey. This is a cool place, but I have to go." He stood up and did his hunchback number by the six dug-in steps that led to the world. "I don't know why you think you're leaving."
I talked so that I would not have to take in this knowledge: Mr. Harvey was no character. He made me feel skeevy and icky now that he was blocking the door.
"Mr. Harvey, I really have to get home." "Take off your clothes." "What?"
"Take your clothes off," Mr. Harvey said. "I want to check that you're still a virgin." "I am, Mr. Harvey," I said.
"I want to make sure. Your parents will thank me." "My parents?" "They only want good girls," he said. "Mr. Harvey," I said, "please let me leave." "You aren't leaving, Susie. You're mine now."
Fitness was not a big thing back then; aerobics was barely a word. Girls were supposed to be soft, and only the girls we suspected were butch could climb the ropes at school.
I fought hard. I fought as hard as I could not to let Mr. Harvey hurt me, but my hard-as-I-could was not hard enough, not even close, and I was soon lying down on the ground, in the ground, with him on top of me panting and sweating, having lost his glasses in the struggle.
I was so alive then. I thought it was the worst thing in the world to be lying flat on my back with a sweating man on top of me. To be trapped inside the earth and have no one know where I was. I thought of my mother.
My mother would be checking the dial of the clock on her oven. It was a new oven and she loved that it had a clock on it. "I can time things to the minute," she told her own mother, a mother who couldn't care less about ovens.
She would be worried, but more angry than worried, at my lateness. As my father pulled into the garage, she would rush about, fixing him a cocktail, a dry sherry, and put on an exasperated face: "You know junior high," she would say. "Maybe it's Spring Fling." "Abigail," my father would say, "how can it be Spring Fling when it's snowing?" Having failed with this, my mother might rush Buckley into the room and say, "Play with your father," while she ducked into the kitchen and took a nip of sherry for herself.
Mr. Harvey started to press his lips against mine. They were blubbery and wet and I wanted to scream but I was too afraid and too exhausted from the fight. I had been kissed once by someone I liked. His name was Ray and he was Indian. He had an accent and was dark. I wasn't supposed to like him. Clarissa called his large eyes, with their half-closed lids, "freak-a-delic," but he was nice and smart and helped me cheat on my algebra exam while pretending he hadn't. He kissed me by my locker the day before we turned in our photos for the yearbook. When the yearbook came out at the end of the summer, I saw that under his picture he had answered the standard "My heart belongs to" with "Susie Salmon." I guess he had had plans. I remember that his lips were chapped.
"Don't, Mr. Harvey," I managed, and I kept saying that one word a lot. Don't. And I said please a lot too. Franny told me that almost everyone begged "please" before dying. "I want you, Susie," he said.
"Please," I said. "Don't," I said. Sometimes I combined them. "Please don't" or "Don't please."
Excerpted from The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold Copyright © 2007 by Alice Sebold. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Posted December 14, 2007
I really enjoyed reading the book The Lovely Bones, by Alice Sebold. I enjoyed this book for many reasons. The thing I liked most about the book was how Susie, a murder victim, narrates the story from her personalized heaven. I expected this book to be more like an investigation, but found it to be something completely different. You know the whole time who the murderer is, and you, the reader, also know other secrets throughout the book as well. The story is mostly about what Susie sees from Heaven. I also think the book was well written because the author has personal experience with a situation related to the story.
4 out of 4 people found this review helpful.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
emotional catharsis from all angles, in the worst of circumstances, and sometimes the best, and from every age and stage in life.
-part ghost story, and part feminist critique--setting is incorporated pointedly, but fluidly and matter-of-factly. rather than shoving every difference or cornerstone of the times down our throats as is often done in period settings (hello, Mad Men? i'm still choking on season 1's obviousness), it is woven in to further expose a character's personality, choices, or even flaws. a study in life, and how it unfolds in ways we could never expect, and how people have to respond, function and eventually deal with their new realities, all the while showing how things can change...how little control we all have. a most basic demonstration and explication of life.
-also, family secrets and how they are acknowledged and forgiven
-one thing i wish had been addressed more clearly is how the sister character went from her coping skills in the immediate aftermath, to her coping and personality (initially it was intimately involved with her experience and choices, then later our perspective was merely as an outside observer--turning point seemed to be somewhere around the time she goes in the green house...)
addresses immigrant experience, growth/sprawl, even our criminal justice system is shown to have grown and changed with the times and with our changing society...are we safer now? would we be as vulnerable to this now? ...ultimately these questions only orbit the main force of the narrative: the question "could ever happen to me/us?" ...the uncertainty in that answer is what keeps us so glued to how in the world these characters could deal with it
coworker of mine mentioned how impressed she was w/ the author's ability to understand the variety of emotions and thoughts of the varied group of characters, she talked about the way that it makes her hopeful/wistful about the way that the dead could be around us in such a way, watching/guiding us and talked about how she wishes she could be open to the kind of direction her mother may provide or something
-->all in all a SUPER fast read, because it certainly keeps you invested til the end.
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Posted August 20, 2009
The Lovely Bones is one of the GREATEST books ever written! Alice Sebold is beyond talented! I've never read such a beautiful book on such a grim, disturbing subject like murdering a child. Every word captivates you, haunts you, and forces you to follow the lives of the family and friends who suffered from the loss of Susie.
READ IT! YOU MUST!
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Posted January 4, 2014
I've read a lot of books in my life and this one is by far the worst. The plot is lacking , the bad guy is an idiot, and so is just about every character in this book.
Spoiler Alert: Seriously, the police can't catch a killer a block away, and the parents are complete morons who check out and are more interested in either running away or having afairs after their daughter is killed. What's worse is that the main character watches this insanity from heaven and then low and behold comes back down by taking over another girls body - and what does she do....she only thinks about getting laid....SERIOUSLY...you're raped and killed and all you think about when you get the chance to come back is to laid!!!!!! Not only that , the author couldn't come up with a better death for the killer then "death by ice"...something is seriously wrong with this woman's thinking and anyone who thinks that this is a great read.
I left this book out for someone else to read and after a month not one was a taker after hearing how bad it was from others. Thankfully this book served as a chew toy for my dogs...DON"T WASTE YOUR MONEY ON THIS ONE
Posted April 28, 2010
I was not interested in reading "Lovely Bones", but a co-worker brought it to me because she knows I am an avid reader. She thought that I would enjoy the book, because she loved and read it three times. I began to read the book and thought, "The author already let the cat out of the bag about the killer?" I almost gave up on reading it because I already knew the killer, but I pushed through and I was pleasantly surprised. It is not a murder mystery, it is more about how a murder affects the people's lives invovled.
It was a very interesting read, but I would not keep this book in my personal library.
Posted March 14, 2010
In many places this book almost made me cry. I would recomend it to everyone who enjoys reading something that is both different and exciting. I do have to admit, though, that I wasn't too fond of how it ended, I think it could have gone on further.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted February 21, 2010
The author, Alice Sebold, knows how to tug the heart strings of her readers. She created a wonderful cast of characters that work well together, even as the story develops into a more complicated tale. I saw the movie first and then decided to read the book. The book is far superior to the movie. There is more emotion, and so much more involved. It's a great book for book clubs and an even better book to escape with. Highly recommended. Great for both Men and Women.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted February 8, 2010
The book really took me in, the first line was amazing. I was really excited to see what would happen next. That is until about a 1\3 of the way through. I got confused as to what character was what-too many to keep track of and not a really good characterization for a few of them. The end was a BIG dissapointment...and just plain weird. I mean she comes in to that weird girls body and has sex with a guy who had a crush with her almost 9 years ago, then falls asleep without every saying who killed her or where to find him/the evidence/her body??? Her mother character was akward, all in all I would give it a thumbs down.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted February 4, 2010
Beautifully written with richly developed characters. I had a really hard time putting this down mostly because of how exquisite the prose is. Sebold has a marvelous gift for painting pictures with words and no matter how ugly the subject (the murder of a child) they are darkly beautiful pictures.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted February 2, 2010
The Lovely Bones was one of the most compelling books I have ever read. From the day I started it to the day I finished it, I was filled with suspense and enthusiasm for the book. It is a quick read, but also a must read. This story is told from the voice of Susie Salmon, a young girl who was brutally murdered by her neighbor in the first chapter. It unfolds into a vigorous plot as she watches from heaven as her family and friends deal with her death. I couldn't stop turning the pages as Susie's Father slowly uncovers what really happened to her. I feel as if I know the characters and it is a book I will definitely want to reread in the future. Alice Sebold uses her beautiful style of writing to draw you in and hold you until the end, where you are left wanting more. I think everyone should read this book and keep in on their book shelf to go back to at any time.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted January 23, 2010
Posted January 18, 2010
though it was a fantasy...but the theme makes you think not only about the victim but about the family!! It made me sad to think how the girl had so much life in her and how her life ended.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted January 17, 2010
Posted January 16, 2010
First if I had to describe Lovely Bones in word. It would be Depressing ! Let's face it this a story about a 14 year old girl that is raped and murdered. but the story has so much more. am I glad I read it ? yes and no it really make me think . Yes Susie talks from Heaven but you learn about the effects of her Murder to her Family and Friends.
The one charter that stood out for me was Abby Salmon Susie's mother. I did not see her mentioned in any of the reviews, which shocked me. I do not want to ruin the story, but in my opinion Abby is a very selfish self centered woman who deserted her husband and children when they needed her the most.
The book has dull moments but all and all it is a good read.
Posted January 14, 2010
I loved the characters; I really did connect with them. I thought the idea of the book was genuine and different, not what I expected especially after I saw the previews to the movie. The story does revolve around the murder of Suzy, but I felt the story had a much deeper purpose. However; I was a little disappointed not so much with the ending but with the coming back to claim what was taken from Suzy. The author did take me by complete surprise with how she played that part, I thought it was cheesy and had a hidden agenda to try and sell the book by adding the one thing that plagues all of our literature, commercials movies etc.. And that was sex. Don't get me wrong, this book has some explicit scenes which I don't mind at all and thought added to the book, but one of the sex scenes was in the wrong place at the wrong time. Overall, I would recommend it to friends; it does make for a good read. I hope I didn't give anything away.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted January 12, 2010
This book is creepy. And I'm not talking about a scary, jump up in fear, scream out loud kind of way. I mean a deeply disturbing, shiver up your spine kind of creepy. Especially the parts that involve Mr. Harvey, the villain of the story. But even still, I'd say that everyone should read this book at least once. It's too good of a story for it to gather dust on a book shelf. So pick it up sooner rather than later -- you won't regret it. The only reason it gets 4 stars instead of 5? The last few chapters are a little slow, in my opinion, compared to the rest.
I can't wait for the movie version to come out on January 15th. I'm very curious to see if the director can pull it off.
Posted January 7, 2010
The Lovely Bones was a very suspenseful and kept me interested. Alice Sebold did a fantastic job writing this book. Susie's rape and murder story was tragic, but it makes you think. Her killer was a neighbor, who lived very close to their home; it could have happend to anyone. After Susie's death, her family slowly moved on and grew apart. Her father planned to take revenge on Susie's killer, but there were no traces of him. The police found out who had killed Susie and began to search for him. They unfortunately never found him. I personally think this book was amazing. Anyone who likes a good murder story, this book is great for you. I have read it several times, and it gets me every time I read it. The Lovely Bones was more than satisfying, and I love this book. Alice Sebold is a terrific author. I recommend everyone to read this book! (:Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted August 26, 2008
Posted February 14, 2010
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Posted January 24, 2010
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