Now a major motion picture in theaters in December, The Lovely Bones began as a groundbreaking novel.
The first half of the book is the strongest, where it is part mystery and part ghost story as 14-year-old murder victim Susie Salmon, "like the fish," narrates the events that happen after her disappearance. Academy Award-nominee Saoirse Ronan plays Susie in the film adaptation. Susie's father, portrayed by Mark Wahlberg in the film adaptation, suspects the killer's identity and struggles with the grief and helplessness brought on by the murder. Susie's sister, a major player in the novel, fears she will be forever defined by Susie's death, while the youngest Salmon, Buckey, struggles to understand the meaning of death. The second half of the book is pure ghost story as Susie watches her loved ones grow, age and begin to move on while she explores her personal heaven.
The novel was a breakout hit when it was published in 2002, and the film adaptation is garnering much attention and anticipation. While the basic premise of the novel – a murdered 14-year-old telling her woeful tale from heaven – has the potential to turn into a lengthy cliché drowned in sentiment, Sebold is a skilled novelist who is able to weave this story into an original and moving account.
Here's what other reviewers of the novel had to say:
"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
"A small but far from minor miracle … A story that is both tragic and full of delight and grace … Sebold maintains a delicate balance between homely and horrid. Full of suspense and written in lithe, resilient prose that by itself delights." Publishers Weekly
"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." Kristine Huntley, Booklist.
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