Today I finished listening to the audio book The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold.
And I have to say, it was the first adult book I’ve read in a long time.
Typically speaking, I lean toward young adult and junior fiction because they tend to be cleaner, more plot driven, and dashed with exciting adventures. Usually when I pick up a junior novel on a whim, I’m rarely disappointed with the story (though sometimes the writing style gets a bit choppy and sloppy).
However, most of the exciting audio books available through my library have a long waiting list, so this time I branched out. I saw the image for the The Lovely Bones and vaguely remembered it had a corresponding movie that I hadn’t seen yet.
I thought to myself, if the book was good enough, then I’d watch the movie to compare it.
My Initial Experience
After reading the first chapter, I felt a bit like Dorothy from the Wizard of Oz, a naive girl who realized she’s not in Kansas anymore.
I had listened to free copies of Whodunnit? Murder in Mystery Manor and it’s sequel Whodunnit? Murder on Mystery Island: 2, so I assumed I could handle any additional murder-mystery style details the author would throw at me until the rest of the characters could catch her murderer.
However, the opening chapter describes Susie Salmon (like the fish) and her subsequent rape and murder with enough detail to be unsettling. I didn’t know if I should skip the opening chapters or stop reading completely out of disgust. Fortunately, the description was short enough that I didn’t have to endure it for long.
But despite its gruesome beginning, The Lovely Bones bones isn’t a murder mystery novel like Agatha Christie (whose books I’m reading right now). Instead, this book focuses on various themes involving death, grief, and moving on. Young Susie watches her family deal with her dramatic death and the various ways they cope. Some characters adjust well while others never quite let go of Susie’s legacy.
If you’re a deep thinker and like to puzzle over these kinds of psychological situations, you might enjoy The Lovely Bones. I found Alice Sebold’s writing style mesmerizing, and hearing her voice tell her own story (rather than another voice actor) made the book all the more interesting.
On the other hand, I’m not a deep thinker.
My Overall Impression
Perhaps I’m too accustomed to instant gratification with my books, but I felt irritated and unsatisfied throughout the entire book. I wanted everything to wrap up with a happy ending, but it didn’t.
It rambled on and then suddenly ended. No dramatic climax. No real development or change in the main protagonist (since she was dead the whole time). No satisfying sense of justice and fulfillment.
Several times throughout the story, I couldn’t help but wonder where the plot was going. And because I’m used to clear-cut characters and plotlines written for children, I wasn’t prepared to deal with the uncomfortable details of the love affairs or the first-time exploration of hormone-wild teenagers. It was more than I cared to hear about.
If you’re looking for a clean, uplifting book that you can pick up casually and finish in a day or two, then The Lovely Bones probably isn’t the best choice. My conflicted feelings from reading it earned the book the banana stamp, too.
And since I didn’t enjoy the book, I probably won’t watch the movie.
But for those of you who have read the book or seen the movie, what do you think?