Thursday, June 12, 2008

Book Review: The Lovely Bones

I considered reading this book for years before I finally had the courage to pick it up. I'm not keen on death-by-rape-and-murder books. There's too much of it the world as it is without spending any of my free time and money on make-believe versions of it. When I was last in Oregon I found an inexpensive copy of The Lovely Bones at St Vincent de Paul, and a lady standing nearby assured me that the violence and graphic nature of the crimes leading to the narrator's death were treated carefully and with respect. So I bought it, and finally got around to reading it last week.

I have to agree that with the possibility of extensive and candid coverage of the rape and murder of a 14 year-old girl, the author treated the matter with delicacy. It's still an unpleasant subject, no matter how it's written about, but I appreciate that the horrors of it weren't exploited.

I found it interesting and enlightening to see how the murdered girl's family dealt with her death- from her father and mother, to her sister who was just a year younger, and to her 4 year-old brother. The book covered about a decade of their lives, including the initial shock and horror, to the playing out of their grief in rather destructive ways, and the eventual healing that came to them all.

From a Christian perspective, the author's idea of the heaven that Susie (the victim and narrator) lived in is laughable. Her heaven is a more self-centered and indulgent form of earth- no sign of a God of any sort other than herself, with whatever Susie wishing for badly enough appearing. She spends much of her time watching her family and wishing she was back with them. After many years she is allowed a short time back on earth in someone else's body; she chooses to use that time to fornicate with a former boyfriend. Then she's swooped back to heaven. Not very realistic or impressive, in my judgment.

If you haven't already read this book, it might be worth a loan from the library or a cheap copy picked up from a secondhand store, but keep in mind that the spiritual depictions are ridiculous. If you can distance yourself from Susie's after-death experiences, the other story lines are an interesting scan of the horrors murder reeks on a family and the healing that eventually comes to them.


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