Monday, October 19, 2009

The Lovely Bones

My Bestest Friend recently wrote about some of her favorite books. I have to say, I don't always agree with Bestest Friend about books. She lists The Catcher in the Rye as one of her favorite books and I have to say that Holden Caulfield is one of the most unsympathetic main characters ever in literature (not quite as self absorbed and utterly despicable as Christopher McCandless in Into the Wild, but even J. D. Salinger knew better than to do that to his main character) and that The Catcher in the Rye really sealed the "why do all books taught in high schools have male main characters? I hate American literature" thing I went through in high school.

ANYWAY. Bestest Friend put The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold on the list. And I read it solely based on her recommendation. It was gut wrenching and difficult and a couple of times I had to put the book down and just walk away. Not because the book was bad, but because it was so touching. Then I read this:

She liked to imagine that when she passed the world looked after her, but she also knew how anonymous she was. Except when she was at work, no one knew where she was at any time of the day and no one waited for her. It was an immaculate anonymity.

These three sentences describe the first two and a half years of my grad school life. I pretended the world cared about me, that the bus driver would worry and that the clerk at the grocery store would notice me if I went missing, but I knew better. I am an average looking woman with no distinguishing characteristics (other than my rapier wit, of course, hardly noticed while paying for my meager groceries). I simultaneously enjoyed my freedom and solitude, while worrying about the consequences of those gifts. Sebold managed to put these feelings I could scarcely express in pages after pages in my journal in a mere three sentences.

The conciseness of language and the development of characters are what I most love about this book. There's rarely an unnecessary word in the book. Each sentence is parsed down to what is important and worth saying. It's a pleasure to savor each word and know that it's there for a reason. The characters act in sometimes surprising, but always real ways. I feel for them, with them, and want better for them. The characters were often the reason I'd have to put the book down. Their behaviors, not always moral or principled, were always understandable. I'd understand, I'd hate myself for the understanding, and I'd have to walk away to get my own personal perspective.

The ineffectual ending and the not great treatment of what could be a great plot are what I like least. But definitely the good of this book outweigh the bad. This one is staying on my bookshelf for good.

Up next will be another recommendation from my Bestest Friend's list, a young adult fiction novel called The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins. Unbeknownst to me, a coworker of BB's recommended the book to BB and he ordered it from the library. I'm almost finished with it and a short post about it will be forthcoming. Maybe. If I can motivate myself to do so.


  1. I agree. The other concept I liked from the book was that it took 7 years for the family to grow a new structure around the hole where she used to be. The hole was still there, but no longer debilitating. That matches my experience grieving a significant death.

    The book becomes even more meaningful when you find out the author is a rape survivor.

  2. I read this book for a book club I was in a few years ago. Some people didn't like, but I really enjoyed it. It made me think. A lot. And I like it when a book makes me think about super deep stuff.


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