Saturday, February 20, 2010

Reading The Lovely Bones

Hostess: Mary 2
Book Selection: The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold
Food: Hummus, pita, veggie tray, cheese, shrimp
Best Wine of the Night: Zinopolis, California Zinfandel, 2007 $17.99
Month: February

I am not sure what I expected from this book - I know that when it was first published and flying off the shelves, I was reluctant to read it, although everyone I knew was raving about it. It seemed like it was going to be depressing, and I wasn't in the market for sad at that time.

So when I read it for book club, I was surprised it was not as depressing and bleak as I had thought it would be. Don't get me wrong, it is still a disturbing topic, the rape and murder of a young girl. But I think Sebold wrote this novel in such a way that the reader is able to distance themselves from the horror of the act, by writing the book from the viewpoint of Susie Salmon as a heavenly narrator.

I loved the heaven aspect, the fact that Susie could watch people, and design her own heaven. And I loved that Holiday was there with her eventually. I know as a pet owner, that I hope my animals will be with me in eternity one day. So I liked that part.

The novel raised many questions in me, and in my book club companions - it was an interesting discussion. All of us felt that the book started out strong, it fizzled out near the end, and seemed to just run out of steam. But perhaps this was Sebold's intention as well, people move on, large life changing events remain large and life changing, but in time they become the past, literally and emotionally, as newer large and life changing events take place. For Susie, that was it for her; she never grew up, moved on, had other experiences, while her friends and family did move on, grow up, lead lives, never forgetting Susie, but dealing with it the best they could. Except for the mom, in my opinion. I was so angry at her! I could not believe a mother could leave her other children like that- it is so completely wrong to me. I felt she was a weak woman, who had to run away from her emotions rather than face them and raise her remaining children. I realize I have no idea of how it would feel to be in her position, and I hope if I have children, I never do. I hope though that if I would eventually be strong for my other kids, even if inside I were struggling and wanting to run away and disappear. Buckley and Lindsey lost not just a sister, but a mother too.

And Mr. Harvey! What a villain to create. I was waiting on the edge of my seat for hard core justice, which never came. I sympathized with the father, who was obsessed with finding evidence that Mr. Harvey was the evil monster that he believed he was, and his desire for Mr. Harvey to get what he deserved. All those girls, all those women, all the families in their lives lost as well. I didn't think what happened to him was enough, but Alyssa pointed out that he didn't matter anymore; the damage had already been done. And maybe that is the case, I can see that. I don't necessarily agree, but I can see the point. I compare this to Joyce Carol Oates' novel Rape: A Love Story, and what happened to the rapists in that story, and I feel that although I thought their punishment was too strong, at least there was a consequence.

Parts of the novel were a little weird, parts were a little obscure; but no matter what this novel made you feel, anger, disgust, wonder, sympathy, sadness - it definitely made you feel something. I don't think it is possible to read The Lovely Bones without leaving with some sort of feeling about it one way or another; it is impossible to be ambivalent.

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