≡ Menu

Book Review: The Lovely Bones

the lovely bonesI read The Lovely Bones for the first time about 6 years ago, I think. Alice Sebold wrote a book that I have a complicated relationship with. Even back then, before I had a child, the subject matter made me very uncomfortable. I’m sure it would be even worse now. I’m finding that I’m no longer able to read books or watch shows where children are in danger with the same oblivion I used to be able to. Being a parent has changed me.

Summary of The Lovely Bones

These aren’t spoilers, you can get them from the dust jacket. A teenage girl is murdered by a sicko. She goes to Heaven. This is where I thought the story was actually handled in a very interesting way. A girl in Heaven–her own personal heaven, as the story says–watches her family dealing with her disappearance and denying that she is dead until her body is actually found.

The police eventually tell the parents that there are no more leads they can follow. This has to be the worst news that a parent can hear, short of the knock on the door or the ringing phone with “We found the body” on the other end.

Her father continues searching. He has his own leads. And up in Heaven, the girl watches this all unfold.

I won’t read it again

I am a religious person, but The Lovely Bones left me cold. I believe in something bigger than myself, although it’s not really the kingdom up in the clouds where we’ll all just get to sing hymns forever. That sounds really boring.

I also have a very difficult time dealing with grief, whether it’s my own or others. I have been to a lot of funerals and I cry at every single one. I have always felt like I’m overly sensitive to other people’s pain. I’m not sure if it’s a good thing or a bad thing. It just seems to be the way it is. I gear up for every single one, vowing that it will be different, and then I wind up bawling and shaking.

It’s not fear of death. I’m not scared of it. It’s not some weird empathic ability. I’m not sure what it is. Anger doesn’t affect me the same way. No emotion other than sadness does. This is one of the few things I don’t know how to control and suspect I never will.

The Lovely Bones is written skillfully enough that it was too close to someone else’s grief for me. It felt like going to a funeral. I could not enjoy the novelty of the story and its approach.

I’ve talked with many people who found this book very comforting. I personally cannot find anything here that does anything but make me feel sad and cold.

I’m not sorry I read it, but I’ll never do it again.

Agree? Disagree? I’ve heard the movie is horrible, but haven’t seen it.


Strength training for body and mind

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Lynn December 28, 2010, 8:30 pm

    I didn’t like it, but for totally different reasons. I thought it started out okay, but went downhill. It just kept going and going. I’m not sure why everyone loved it so much.
    But I agree that, once I had a child, I couldn’t read or watch anything that involves harm to children. On that note, the movie “Mystic River” made me ill.

    • Josh Hanagarne December 30, 2010, 3:31 pm

      I read Mystic River long before Max was born. I don’t expect I’ll revisit it!

  • Michelle December 29, 2010, 10:28 am

    I thought the book would have been better if she had left out the description of heaven, or even the mention of it. That the girl was watching from the afterlife was enough, and the How? of it wasn’t essential to the book.

  • Jeanette Swalberg December 29, 2010, 12:11 pm

    I won’t read it again either, Josh. I won’t be renting the DVD either…..I read The Lovely Bones because my daughter’s friends had read it/seen the movie and were talking about it and she was wondering about reading it as well. So glad I previewed it!! My answer was a resounding NO. Thank goodness for a teenager who still trusts my opinion in some things.

    The afterlife thing didn’t really do a whole lot for me either. It read like a bad episode of The X-files. I could go off here on a whole tangent about writers and directors attempting to portray something they either don’t believe in, or haven’t explored to a sufficient depth to portray, but I’ll restrain myself.

    If you want to wrap your head around a great story where a young victim triumphs over a depraved creep, review the Elizabeth Smart story. A-maz-ing!

  • Guy. July 15, 2011, 3:28 pm

    Pathetic….You guys would judge a book because it interferes with your version on heaven…its a book for god sake.

  • guy November 28, 2011, 8:39 am

    i really like the movie and the book