The Lovely Bones deals with the grimmest of subjects: rape, murder, paedophilia, bereavement. Somehow, the result is a hauntingly beautiful, life-affirming and unforgettable novel, which explores the searing rawness of human experience while avoiding becoming overly sentimental or gratuitous.
The novel's protagonist, fourteen year old Susie Salmon, is brutally raped and murdered on her way home from school. Susie narrates her story from the afterlife, as she watches her family and friends – and even her murderer – deal with the fallout of her death. Her vantage point in the afterlife allows her insight into the most intimate moments of those she has left behind, but she longs endlessly to reclaim the life that was stolen from her so that she too can 'grow up' and share all the rights of passage, triumphs and disappointments of her peers.
Sebold's simple and elegant use of language depicts Susie's story with exceptional poignancy and sensitivity. Never trite or unbelievable, despite the bleak themes and the journey into the supernatural world, this is a story which could not fail to move the stoniest of hearts.
The Lovely Bones is no misery memoir or salacious tale of retribution, but an enthralling story of loss, love and the resilience of the human spirit. Surely destined to become a modern classic, the novel has much to teach us about our common humanity and the emotional bonds that, at their strongest, can defy even death.
Katherine Bouton, New York Times
This is a high-wire act for a first novelist, and Alice Sebold maintains almost perfect balance.
A small but far from minor miracle... a story that is both tragic and full of light and grace... full of suspense and written in lithe, resilient prose that by itself delights.
Michiko Kakutani, New York Times
Ms. Sebold's achievements... her ability to capture both the ordinary and the extraordinary, the banal and the horrific, in lyrical, unsentimental prose; her instinctive understanding of the mathematics of love between parents and children; her gift for making palpable the dreams, regrets and unstilled hopes of one girl and one family.
Michael Chabon, author of The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay
The Lovely Bones is one of the strangest experiences I have had as a reader in a long time, and one of the most memorable. Painfully funny, bracingly tough, terribly sad, it is a feat of imagination and a tribute to the healing power of grief.