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Tuesday, February 2, 2010

A Wish for Beyond the Grave

The Lovely Bones

by Alice Sebold

genre: Literary Fiction

You live in a small town. Most people know most other people and you feel secure in your close knit community. The unthinkable happens. A girl goes missing. You later hear through gossip chains and the news, she was murdered. Your small town world becomes a place less safe, you feel shattered. You attend the funeral. You know the family a little. You try in some way to give condolences but you know that nothing you say or do could penetrate that kind of sorrow. What you don't know you learn in this book. What happens to a family that loses a daughter and sister this way? How do they hold it together? Or do they at all? What does loss like that mean? And you learn that there are never pat answers or perfect endings.

Told from the point of view of the murder victim, this story imagines a life after death for the dead and the living. It is eerie and sickening as we are navigated through the rape and murder of this character. But then we are taken on an unexpected journey as flies on a wall peering into the private horror of a family that must go on. Each reacting in their own separate ways, it is a train wreck of emotions.

I think this book is one of those books that evoke the love it hate it phenomenon. People will likely either be enthralled with it or they will be repulsed by it. It is not a book for young or squeamish people, though I would point out that the scenes about rape and murder are actually fairly tame. I was surprised to find that I only cried once, though I felt myself on the verge many times. In any event, I myself fit in the love it category. I listened to this one on audio and there were moments when I became the character. An author that kidnaps me that way counts as successful to me. It is the ultimate goal of storytelling, to take people into the story and make them forget where they are. I spent several days afterward thinking about this book, the characters and my own questioning nature on the subject of death and afterlife. If there were a heaven, even though it was not perfect, I would want it to be as described in this book. I found myself wishing it were true.

I don't think you'll truly know if you are a lover or hater of this book unless you pick it up and give it a try. I highly recommend it.

1 comment:

Clowncar said...

I really enjoyed that book too. It got bashed ceaselessly after it came out, and I could never quite figure out why. The main complaint seemed to be that it was gimmicky. Maybe in concept, but certainly not in execution. Good book.