Sebold's first novel after her memoir, Lucky is a small but far from minor miracle. Sebold has taken a grim, media-exploited subject and fashioned from it a story that is both tragic and full of light and grace. The novel begins swiftly. In the second sentence, Sebold's narrator, Susie Salmon, announces, "I was fourteen when I was murdered on December 6, 1973." Susie is taking a shortcut through a cornfield when a neighbor lures her to his hideaway. The description of the crime is chilling, but never vulgar, and Sebold maintains this delicate balance between homely and horrid as she depicts the progress of grief for Susie's family and friends. She captures the odd alliances forged and the relationships ruined: the shattered father who buries his sadness trying to gather evidence, the mother who escapes "her ruined heart, in merciful adultery." At the same time, Sebold brings to life an entire suburban community, from the mortician's son to the handsome biker dropout who quietly helps investigate Susie's murder. Much as this novel is about "the lovely bones" growing around Susie's absence, it is also full of suspense and written in lithe, resilient prose that by itself delights. Sebold's most dazzling stroke, among many bold ones, is to narrate the story from Susie's heaven (a place where wishing is having), providing the warmth of a first-person narration and the freedom of an omniscient one. It might be this that gives Sebold's novel its special flavor, for in Susie's every observation and memory of the smell of skunk or the touch of spider webs is the reminder that life is sweet and funny and surprising.
Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Paperback edition.
The owner of the lovely bones is named Susie Salmon ( Saoirse Ronan , a very good young actress, who cannot be faulted here). The heaven Susie occupies looks a little like a Flower Power world in the kind of fantasy that, murdered in 1973, she might have imagined. Seems to me that heaven, by definition outside time and space, would have neither colors nor a lack of colors -- would be a state with no sensations. Nor would there be thinking there, let alone narration. In an eternity spent in the presence of infinite goodness, you don't go around thinking, "Man! Is this great!" You simply are. I have a lot of theologians on my side here.