'The Lovely Bones' by Alice Sebold has been on my list to read for some time. I had read a review that intrigued me but I thought that it might also irritate or upset me so in the end I didn't make a big effort to find it. Finding it in Shiploads for $3 made it less effort to pick it up than leave it on the shelf.
Unwisely, I began this novel at around 8pm in the evening, I tried to start earlier, but my children can sniff out mummy enjoying something they cannot very quickly and I managed less than half a page from the afternoon. Despite sensibly going to bed around 9:30, I was still unable to put it down until around 11, around which time the emotions stirred up by the story were still charging through me and sleep was unthinkable.
Despite my intentions for an early night, I got up and devoured the rest of the book, gulping it a little too fast to deliberate over the latter chapters, as at this stage I was eager to get a little sleep. Spectres of the well drawn characters hovered around my mind until I managed to cleanse them away by googling technical facts about the filming of the story by Peter Jackson.
Although the structure and narration is not necessarily unique stylistically, I found myself completely drawn in by the story of a young girl, raped and murdered and in a ghostly presence, watching her beloved family and despised murderer living out their lives over the next years. She watches somewhat dispassionately, although at times she mentions her love or hate. We see details of the murderer's history as mildly as we see our heroine's back story, building up to who she is, although more than the sum of her parts.
It is a philosophical novel, a secular, semi moralised meta comment on evil, justice and human nature. It is a visceral and wistful exploration of sensations; of the emotions, mind and body. As the title suggests, the novel is concerned with the fate of her body, her blood leaves its mark in places, traces of her bones mark her story, and a few meagre traces of the lively, imaginative and precious girl she was are discarded or treasured by her destroyer at his whim. As with Abel, what has happened cannot fade away, despite the murderer's cover up. Her blood cries out from the ground. Is justice achieved? Where does she go? How does the rest of the family's stories conclude? Am I satisfied by the resolution? What of God? Is He watching?
This book is not for those who are disturbed by explicitly violent content, I am not usually one who can tolerate such scenes, but the righteous anger at the event fuels the story and guides the reader, like a helpless detective, to watch the story as it plays out, praying and longing for justice.