"The Lovely Bones" is a great first novel by Alice Sebold which is not yet a movie, but it will be. The book has just hit bookstores & it does what all fine fiction is meant to do: it successfully demands that you see & feel reality in a different way. The conceit is that at last we can hear the voice of a missing child from heaven, far beyond her makeshift grave. Her name is Susie Salmon, she is fourteen years old & she was raped & murdered by a sneaky neighbor on December 6, 1973. The crime tears her family and friends apart: her parents, her brilliant younger sister Lindsey, her little brother Buckley, the boy who gave her a first kiss and a love note she never got to read, a girl she barely knew who becomes obsessed with every detail of Susie's life and death and a police officer who tries to solve her murder, but who becomes way too involved with the living members of the Sa1mon family.
The book is agonizing to read, but mixed in with the pain is relief, that at least Susie can appreciate her troubled family in a different light and be happy for their brief moments of happiness. The dead may be able to see and hear the people they loved on earth and the living may even believe they are seeing and hearing brief glimpses of their lost loved ones, but they can't communicate back & forth. Susie can't name her killer or tell anyone where her body is, nor can she get her number one wish: to be alive again with her killer dead. That's out, her intake counselor snaps. How do you film a sad story like "The Lovely Bones" without being flooded with treacly, maudlin sentiments, none of which are in the book? Susie was sharp and snappy in life, rather like her wonderfully drawn Grandma Lynn. Alice Sebold takes the saddest situation in the world, splashes it with bold, vivid brush strokes and sprinkles in jokes you have to be on Susie's wavelength to get. But Alice Sebold really does make it wonderfully easy to be with Susie for 230 pages. If only the brave filmmakers who tackle "The Lovely Bones" can do half as well...
© 2002 - Monica Sullivan - Air Date: 7/3/02
The Lovely Bones
Alice Sebold - Little Brown & Company