Claire Greene's Reviews > The Lovely Bones

The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold
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Apr 14, 08

Recommended for: nobody
Read in January, 2007

This book has single handedly shown me that I spend too much time skimming and not enough time really reading and thinking about the books I have been reading. I have two kids and so I'm busy and I often find myself reading when I am stealing time or tired. But that is not even an excuse for this book. When i read the book I thought it was pretty good. Not great, but not bad. I liked the concept and the fact that the girl was the narrator. I like a murder mystery, so I liked the suspense of waiting to see if the guy would get caught, etc. So when all was said and done and I finished the book, I thought - yeah, okay. Not bad, but not great. Then I went online here and read the other reviews, particularly one by TheDane (http://www.goodreads.com/user/show/16...) and I went - HEY!! That's right! I mean, the writing alone is something I should have picked up one had I really been paying attention. Pupils pulsing like olives?? Buttering toast with tears?? Umm... I really must have been distracted or skimming like crazy because that is ridiculous. And the real meaning of the final scene went WAY over my head, which I am somewhat ashamed to admit. When I read it, I really was like, yeah yeah, oh that's sweet she got one night with her boyfriend which she had been cheated of and all. But when you slow down and really think of this, the enormity of that is overwhelming. A young girl who dies after being RAPED. A girl who's first sexual experience was RAPE by an older man. A girl who actually barely knew this boy in her life. This girl can only let go of life after having sex. With that boy. That she really didn't know that well. That alone is enough to send of some big alarms. But then you add that she was allowed to go back to earth - to have sex??? Not see her family, not comfort her father and brother and sister? Not point out the killer?? Nope, heaven lets her go back, then of all times, not earlier when she wanted it more, or could have done more both for justice and her family? So the admission to heaven is teen sex? Really? The way to overcome deep grief and gain acceptance and peace is.. again, teen sex? Wow. I missed out as a teen because that was NOT my experience. Okay, now louder warning bells should have been going off. But the final issue - she takes over the body of a "friend". Without the girl's knowledge or permission. The "friend" who is a lesbian. And uses her body to have sex with a boy. Just taking over her body is a violation. Taking over her body and using that time to have sex is another violation. And to have sex with a boy, knowing that is the antithesis of everything this "friend" would have wanted or agreed to is yet another violation. What the hell??? And none of that gets brought up or mentioned. No, it is a feel good ending. yeah! I mean, I have some pretty close friends - some I have known for at least triple the time these two girls have "known" each other - and if I somehow managed to just steal their bodies and have sex with a woman?? Well, it would be good for me that I was already dead. That is a betrayal in the worst sense on so many levels it is shocking. And what of the possible consequences? Pregnancy? STDs? Never mind the "lesser" consequences of emotional damage, damage to their friendship, the trust issues, etc etc etc????? After thinking about it more and more, I was truly embarrassed to have not seen these dark and disturbing connotations, made all the worse for the fact that the author serves this up as the feel good ending - not noticing the irony at all of having the main character who was raped and violated in turn rape and violate a friend, while denouncing the first act as a heinous crime and lauding the second act as happy ending? So in short, I have learned my lesson and I am now making more of an effort to truly read and then think about what I am reading!!!
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Comments (showing 1-17 of 17) (17 new)

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Stephanee I have to agree with your comments. However, I still think it was a pretty good read just because it made me keep turning the pages. To me, the most annoying part was that in the final chapters, when everyone converges at the landfill, you start to think that maybe, somehow, the killer is actually going to be caught. Or at least that her body will be found, by some miracle. But that doesn't happen. Which left me thinking, what was the whole point of that scene at the landfill anyway?


Stephanee By the way, I heard that this book was being made into a movie. Can you imagine? I do not have any idea how they are going to make a movie out of this and actually make it enjoyable to watch.


Jeanne Claire, how funny that I was coming here to write a similar review. I too skim books more than I read them, and I finished this book and gave it three stars. Then I read the other reviews and couldn't believe that I missed such doozies as "pupils like... ferocious olives." What?? I really need to pay attention more when I'm reading!


Allyson I think a lot of your concerns are displaced and that your first reading of the book is more on target. I can see how if you have to skim books and you were looking for a murder mystery - which isn't exactly this book - you wouldn't like it and would get a different impression of the book. But, for one, when Susie and Ray are together it is not really 'teen sex.' Ray is 22 and Susie isn't just 14, she's 14 + 8 very dense years of semi-omniscient experience (through observation from heaven - and we can tell she doesn't just see people, but experiences what they feel and think as well, as Susie is constantly giving very specific descriptions of such things). We know from when Susie arrives in heaven that she is watching Earth precisely to figure out how to "grow up," (to see how other people do it, as Susie puts it), an important part of which for her is precisely the part she was 'robbed' of before she could experience: intimacy, which she sees her sister and her best friend experiencing, and which she yearns to experience as well. Thus she didn't return for sex per se so much as this kind of intimacy, to have someone touch her gently and with love and to touch that person in return, to choose to have this happen, to share and feel the good kind of vulnerable and so forth. And as for Ruth, Ruth wanted to give Susie what she wants, and she also wanted to experience the 'otherworldly realm' after becoming so acquainted with violence and being able to sense that sort of 'something else' to the world (which she can't really share with other people on Earth because they don't believe her or don't really get it). She invited Ray to the landfill, she purposefully switched with Susie (Susie struggles to keep Ruth in Ruth's body but cannot overcome Ruth's strength and realizes Ruth must have been planning such a moment for a long time). I think from the way Sebold lays out the scene, it's safe to say Ruth at least expected Susie -might- be intimate with Ray (that is, have sex or in some way be sexual with him), or expected she would. Ruth is, after all, a very smart and intuitive character. Also, her sexuality is somewhat more complicated than just being a lesbian, and if there were anyone she would be okay with Susie using her body to be intimate with, it would be Ray, with whom she also shared a physical, emotional and intellectual intimacy. Sebold seems to suggest that this experience or almost-experience (since Ruth didn't exactly experience it herself but she is still obviously very implicated and involved) will transform Ruth's and Ray's relationship, bringing them closer in a way they couldn't before (Ruth seems to be iffy about touching people, in a sense, and Ray can now more easily take the next step to believing in things that can't be outright proven or put into text books). So I don't think it's really fair to say this is the story of someone who has to have teen sex in the form of rape in order to get to heaven, and there's certainly much more to get from this story that a closer reading may give you.



Nina Ruth clearly initiated having her body inhabited by Susie, why are you mad?


message 6: by Liz (new) - rated it 1 star

Liz OMG! I'm in the middle of reading this book and after reading a few of your posts now I don't even want to wast my time finishing it! I too am a SAHM reading as I brush my teeth or make dinner - I'm starting to think that this is so not worth my time! Thanks everyone~


message 7: by Autumncs98 (new)

Autumncs98 What are you TALKING about? Susie came back for her family! And it was a great book! I didn't read much of it, but of what I did read was FANTASTIC!!!


Paige225 Thank you for articulating everything that I hated about this book! In my own review, I found myself too disgusted to state it all...I will direct others to this review. One of the worst books I have ever read.


Michael Anderson Autumncs98 wrote: "What are you TALKING about? Susie came back for her family! And it was a great book! I didn't read much of it, but of what I did read was FANTASTIC!!!"

What are YOU talking about? Have you actually read the section in question? She doesn't come back for her family.


Christina I didn't finish the book myself, but now that I have read some of the other reviews, particularly yours and The Dane's, I am truly glad I didn't struggle further with it than I did. What I managed to trudge through left me feeling bored and emotionally detached from the story. From what I've read about the ending, I am sure that feeling of detachment would have quickly escalated to anger and disgust. I am actually relieved that I didn't make it that far.


Katie Winkler I had some problems with the novel, although I did really like the plot device of the violence happening early and the girl watching from above. What I find most interesting is the psychology behind the novel--I knew of Sebold's rape and her memoir of the experience before I read it, so I found the novel a fascinating attempt by Sebold to bring closure to the victims of rape and their families. So often the rapist is never caught and there is no justice, but in her novel Sebold can achieve that justice, even though no one knows about the murderer except for the dead victim.

An interesting side note--Sebold, well after her rape, identified her attacker and saw him punished for his crime.

I can't say I felt the same way about Sebold after I read Almost Moon--a book about matricide I found particularly disturbing--I'm sure she meant it to be disturbing, but once was enough for me. Sebold obviously has not exorcised all her demons.


Donald Baker I am not opposed to reading 50 pages of a book and throwing it aside. That's what happened to this one. My time is too valuable to waste on this kind of drivel.


message 13: by Eva (new) - rated it 3 stars

Eva First of all I totally disagree with the whole "omg she raped Ruth" part, it is a bullshit. But that is not the point. What I wanted was to tell you how utterly pathetic your "review" was. If I hate anything, it is the reader who reads the book, likes it, and then find out some negative reviews and goes all "oh it was so bad, I hated it all the time". For heavens sake, don't you see how despicable that is!


Stephanie @Eva... I don't really see it as despicable. What if I said I didn't like the book, but them read some good reviews and reevaluated the book and decided that I was initially wrong and I think it's a good book? People aren't Gods, they can be wrong and change their minds. I mean I liked Twilight until I finished the last one and now when I go back and think of all of them I'm shocked that I ever liked it. Its very easy to get caught up in the story (especially when it's a leisure read and you're picking it up and putting it down more often than normal) and miss parts that are truly dreadful. (Bella being in a near comatose state for months, for example seemed powerfully sad at first, and now extremely obnoxious now.) Experiences like this CAN happen and I don't think it's "despicable" if it does.


message 15: by Katie (last edited Sep 01, 2012 05:15PM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Katie Winkler Well-said, Stephanie


message 16: by Ilan (new) - rated it 1 star

Ilan Pretty much sums up why I hated this book


Paige Buursma I wasn't a huge fan of the sex scene at the end, but I understood why she did it. It's not cause the "admission to heaven is teen sex." Susie lost her life to an act of violence by a man, so Sebold wanted to give her one last chance to experience gentleness with a man instead. At the time of her death, Susie couldn't stop thinking about kissing, love notes, etc, and I think it was reasonable to conclude the story with some sort of physical reconciliation with a man. (That being said, I would have felt better about it if it hadn't gone so far as actual sex) But really, you can't claim it was someone she didn't know what she had been watching him closely for 8 years, and he had clearly been thinking of her that whole time too.

If you didn't read all these dark things into it when you read it yourself, then maybe that's because it wasn't a natural thing to take from the passage. You don't have to believe every review you read.


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