Ghost Novel Review In Honor of Banned Book Week: The Lovely Bones

Welcome to Banned Book Week 2012! I love the irony inherent in turning a dusty, fusty institution on its head, don’t you?

Here at Pen in her Hand, we’ve already reviewed two banned ghost books. They are Beloved and The Headless Cupid. Check them out. I liked them both, and I believe Beloved is a true tour de force.

Today, we’re going to discuss one more banned ghost novel, The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold. The Lovely Bones

A true ghost book, the novel is narrated by an apparition named Suzie Salmon. It’s not a mystery. You know within the first few pages the identity of Suzie’s sexual predator-murderer. Rather, The Lovely Bones is an examination of loved ones in crisis. Suzie becomes a kind of omniscient observer of the machinations grief wields on family dynamics–parent to parent, child to child, parent to child. Everything in Suzie’s family changes, including Suzie who must come to terms both with what she observes and with her own loss.

I actually met Alice Sebold at the Squaw Valley Writers Conference; I was fortunate to be in her workshop session. She’s a lovely person, completely devoid of that upturned nose arrogance you sometimes find in successful authors. For instance, one evening activity called upon conference authors to read their favorite poem. Sebold chose a poignant, engaging poem from her childhood, this in marked contrast to another nationally recognized poet (who shall remain nameless)  who read one of his own.

What some people may not understand is that, like the protagonist of The Lovely Bones, Sebold herself experienced a violent sex crime. Talk about writing what you know! She told us about her recovery journey that she first traveled while writing the nonfiction account, Lucky. It was after writing Lucky that Sebold was able to complete The Lovely Bones.

When describing The Lovely Bones, Sebold explained it began with voice, as Suzie Salmon’s voice was in Sebold’s head from the beginning. You can tell, too, and the novel remains voice-rich throughout. A near perfect novel, The Lovely Bones is a moving, suspenseful (brainiac sister Lindsey stalks the murderer), even at times, comic, exploration of remembrance, recovery and rebirth.


Ghost Novel Review In Honor of Banned Book Week: The Lovely Bones — 13 Comments

    • It’s pretty fun to troll through the various banned book lists. One of my favorites is The Giver, banned on the basis that it promotes euthanasia, when in fact, the narrator roundly rejects euthanasia. Often the banners don’t even read the books before challenging them.

  1. In spite of the sad content I loved this book. You’re right ‘the voice’ is amazing. It’s not a book for everyone and a few of my friends have not enjoyed it – I think primarily because they couldn’t get over the sadness. My husband reads very few books but a couple of years ago on holiday, he wanted a book and so I gave him this one – he read it in one day and then asked if I had any more books like that! To be honest I have plenty of good books but this one was definitely special.
    Lynn 😀

    • Hi Lynn,

      Yes, I loved it, too. I’m with your husband–I wish I could find another book just like this one. I’m going to read a novel suggested by someone on Goodreads that also features a teen ghost looking back at her world. It’s called The Girl Who Stopped Swimming. We’ll see how that one goes. There’s also Elsewhere, narrated by a teen girl from heaven looking down. I liked that one though it’s not as psychologically complex as The Lovely Bones.

      • Ah, thanks for those suggestions. I’ll await your review of the first one (just followed your blog so I don’t miss it – you will be posting? Yes?) Do you recommend Elsewhere?
        Lynn 😀

        • Hi Lynn,

          Thanks for following! As soon as I read The Girl Who Stopped Swimming, I will review it. Currently, I’m reading Afternoon of an Autocrat–slow to start but now really enjoyable. I do recommend Elsewhere with the proviso that it’s a young adult novel. It doesn’t wield as much angst as does Lovely Bones, but it works in its own way. If you read it, please let me know what you think.

  2. I need to give The Lovely Bones a re-read sometime soon. It’s been a while, but I remember it being awfully good. Actually, I’ve liked all of Sebold’s work. Lucky is straight-up harrowing, and Almost Moon is weirdly honest in its protagonist’s flaws. Lucky you to be in a workshop with her!

    • Hi Katherine,

      Yes, I count myself very lucky (ha ha) to have been in her workshop group. I thought both Lucky and Lovey Bones were wonderful. I haven’t read Almost Moon (or heard much about it).

  3. I’m a student and I personally loved The Lovely Bones and thinks it’s a bit ridiculous people want to ban it. If parents aren’t mature enough to discuss the topic of rape with their kids then maybe they aren’t mature enough to read the book themselves. Just my opinion.

    • Hi Sarah,

      Yes, I think The Lovely Bones is an excellent book for many young people. Of course, some young people are too sensitive for the material, but I feel the decision not to read any book should be left to the young adults and their parents–not to the censors.

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