Book Review: THE LOVELY BONES, by Alice Sebald

Ah! A refreshing break from the "what you think you know is wrong" books that I've been reading (and reading, and rereading) lately! Also, it is a book club selection for the book club whose meeting I am supposed to be attending at this very moment, but that, for reasons unbeknownst even to me, I am not. Hmm.

Anyway, Sebald's THE LOVELY BONES is an interesting contrast between innocence and corruption as the narrator, fourteen-year-old Susie Salmon, is raped and murdered by a neighbor in the first few pages of the book. How is it, then, that she's narrating? Why, she's narrating from heaven, an concept that Sebald uses to her characters' advantage to flesh out the story of the Salmon family in the years after Susie's death. She chronicles the various expressions of grief through Susie, who watches over them from heaven (and thus is granted an omniscient status that allows her to see and sympathize with the private thoughts of her parents and siblings) and struggles, at points, to intervene and reveal the identity of her killer.

This is a murder mystery working backwards, as we, the readers, know from the start every detail of the crime but can no more impress our knowledge onto the other characters than Susie can. The heavens revealed in Sebald's book are wonderful, and I was pleased that the story veered sharply away, at the last minute, from the predictable ending that I'd felt certain was coming. THE LOVELY BONES is a great book to throw in between Camus and Kafka because, though it does give you plenty to think about, it does not make your head ache from the strain of thinking.


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