Tuesday, December 15, 2009


I never had the desire to read Alice Sebold's novel The Lovely Bones when it was first published. I knew it involved the rape and murder of a teenage girl, and I thought: No thanks! Not right now. But the book entered my consciousness again because there's a film adaptation coming out soon (which I've heard is pretty awful). I was in a bookstore in California last week and started flipping through it, and I found myself immediately absorbed, in a way I haven't been absorbed in a book in a while. So when I got back to the East Coast, I checked it out from the library and finished it in about three days. It's very well-written. The scene where the main character is killed, narrated by her, is particularly haunting. And though a lot of the book takes place in "heaven," there's no syrupy morality or religion to be found. I appreciated that there were few "justice being served" moments or big revelations for the reasons behind both horrible and wonderful events. The events just unfolded, sometimes as a result of a person's will, and sometimes against his or her will.

The trajectory of finishing the book was very familiar - after being very engaged for most of it, I didn't like the book's climax, and found the last chapter or so unsatisfying. This happens to me a lot, and I'm not sure whether it's due to each individual novel, or my own propensity to rush to the end because I'm so involved and want to find out what happens. Or - I suppose there's a third possibility, that the end of a novel will almost always be disappointing, because what I loved was the book, and the book is now over. Which fits sort of nicely into the themes of The Lovely Bones, in fact. Though the dead character is still conscious and observant, nothing, she says, compares to the feeling of actually being alive.