“My name was Salmon, like the fish, first name, Susie. I was fourteen when I was murdered on December 6, 1973.”
American author Alice Sebold is known for her daring opening lines which grab your attention and make sure you read ahead. The opening lines of her literary success ‘The Lovely Bones’ are narrated by a 14 year old Susie Salmon who in the first chapter itself makes the reader aware of her murder and rape by one of her neighbours. You might be thinking that a book which kills off the protagonist in the first chapter and even tells you who the murderer is, might be a dull and boring thing to read with no real substance to go on. But that’s where Sebold proves you wrong.
Yes, it is a story of a dead girl who is unable to move on as she still clings to her life on earth and is not ready to let go of her loved ones. Susie is waiting for justice which is hard to come by as her murderer George Harvey is quite a professional. Meanwhile each member of the Salmon family is coping with the loss in different ways while Susie is watching them from her heaven. Jack salmon works day and night to fit the pieces that could solve the puzzle which is his daughter’s murder case. His passion and desperation to find the killer is perceived by others as reluctancy to move on and accept the death of his daughter. Susie’s mother Abigail pulls herself away from her family to deal with the grief while younger sister Lindsey channels her grief into physically and emotionally strengthening herself. Susie watches her younger sister grow up and go through all the experiences she herself will never be able to witness. She has to deal with the grief of her own death as much as her family, she must accept it and let go.
The book deals with grief and loss very well with every character coping with it according to their personality. There are some characters that could have used more detailing as it would have been interesting to know more about them. The book feels dragged at times when it focuses on the time gone by and the growth of several characters. There are complex themes like loss, guilt and isolation which make this book a literary genius.
When it comes to the ending it is not satisfactory for me because I wanted something brutal. Sebold does not give you brutal, she gives a ray of hope and a subtle end with justice served by karma itself. She makes you think about the concept of afterlife and karma in a different way and tries to end the book on a positive note which can feel a bit forced.
This book is almost like a horror story showing that there is nothing more terrifying on earth than humans themselves. The story unveils the horrors of our world and makes you feel helpless at times but there is always that little flame of hope that burns in the hearts of those you love.
-“Because horror on earth is real and it is every day. It is like the flower or like the sun; it cannot be contained”