CAIRO: Summer is a time for fun, the beach, plenty of sunshine, and some summer reading. But this summer, instead of reaching for some light, easy-read novel, pick up some of the bestsellers that have made waves in the literary scene while you were too busy working.
The Lovely Bones, the debut novel by Alice Sebold, is an ideal novel to tuck into your beach bag this summer. A deep, remarkably poignant tale about love, death and letting go, the story begins with Susie Salmon, a 14-year-old girl that was raped and killed by a neighbor.
Susie narrates the story of her death and its aftermath on her family from heaven.
Susie’s death sends her family into a tailspin as they each try to cope with her death in their own way. Watching them from heaven, she tells their individual stories, she shares their grief, their frustration and eventually, their acceptance, as she watches her killer move from town to town after each of his crimes.
What makes this story so poignant is that it is written from the perspective of the dead victim, a child who is desperately trying to understand what is happening to her, growing in heaven, accepting that her life is over, while valiantly trying to get those she left behind to find her killer.
Her father embarks on a risky, obsessive quest to find her killer, her sister undertakes a feat of remarkable daring, her mother struggles to let go, her grandmother valiantly tries to be the rock that holds the family together while masking her grief, and the boy she likes tries to move on, only to find himself the center of a miraculous event.
At the same time, the author presents an interesting perspective of what heaven is to each of its residents. For Susie, heaven is a playground, with lots of playtime and other children. Sebold attempts and succeeds in turning heaven into what we each want it to be, a physical existence of the imagination.
Through Susie, we learn that death is just the beginning of the journey and that even those who die must deal with the devastating loss of life.
As the reader, you feel empathy, sadness, anger and frustration as Susie’s killer remains just slightly out of the reach of those hunting him down.
Also, through Susie, the reader begins to feel the power of grief through her family and friends left behind to cope and struggle between hope (to apprehend her killer) and acceptance (that he may never be found).
Heartbreaking in the emotions it evokes, The Lovely Bones does something books of this genre rarely do; it combines reality and imagination into one page-turning, emotion-swerving ride.
And through it all, Susie undergoes the turbulence of adolescence, reminding the reader of their days as a young child growing up and learning the ways of the world.
Quoting Aimee Bender, author of An Invisible Sign of My Own, “The Lovely Bones is the kind of novel that, once you’re done, you may go visit while wandering through a bookstore and touch on the binding, just to remember the emotions you felt while reading it.
Once you read it, you’ll understand how true that is. And while it may not be your pick for summer reading, rest assured, you will find yourself so immersed in Susie’s story, you’ll get a tan without even noticing.