Sunday, August 16, 2009

Reflections: The Lovely Bones

A fourteen year old girl Susie Salmon gets raped and murdered in a cornfield near her house. The dead girl watches over her family, friends and her killer from Heaven and narrates this tale. No doubt the content is dark and weighs heavy, but the book tells a very moving tale of a young girl's hopes and angst, and her family's tumultuous journey of coping with their loss.

The characters have been shaped with a lot of depth and reality. I have never before been scared of a character from a book - but despite hardly any gore or graphic descriptions of the violence or of the killer, Sebold brings out spine chills every time the killer is mentioned. Movies have their way of conveying this same fear through the actor's visual manifestation of the violence and psychotic instincts, but for a book to bring out that same impact with such subtle teasing of the killer's disturbed state, is pretty commendable. The killer really disturbed me, and that's not much of a surprise. But my recommendation would be to not sit through the book in the dead of the night :)

Quite a few paranormal phenomena have been integrated into the story, some of which I felt could have been done without. Some parts reminded me of "Sixth Sense" and the TV show "Ghost Whisperer"... both of which deal with the concept that the dead who were abruptly cut off from their life on Earth, linger on to avenge their death or communicate something to their loved ones. I'm obviously quite skeptical (and scared) of such phenomena and I avoid thinking about them. Since this is a work of fiction, I'm not dissecting these aspects. However with Sebold's poetic prose, one can imagine many metaphoric levels to these phenomena... spirits can be equated to memories of loved ones, etc... and that's what I tried to do. Despite bringing in such phenomena, the book doesn't turn into a scary/grim "ghost" thriller. The first half of the book has a tinge of humour to it, making the whole narration very interesting and creative. The middle of the book gets intense as the killer's life gets traced, and Susie's family falls apart with the pain of her death. Despite the killer being introduced within the very first pages of the book, the crux of the suspense is how the police/detectives and Susie's family track down the killer. Somewhere down the line, I vehemently awaited justice on behalf of so many young girls who have suffered a similar fate in reality. My main quibble is that I didn't find enough closure from the ending - I was expecting a climax, but it seemed to fizzle out with an induced paranormal phenomenon. It thwarted the momentum and flow of the book for me.

The family's grief and helplessness are quite moving, and Sebold's writing beautifully captures it all. I loved her lyrical prose. Her writing wrings out every subtle emotion from each of the characters. It doesn't do justice to gulp down her prose... the words hold a lot of insight and they are very creatively expressed, leaving a haunting and profound impact on life, death, acceptance and moving on.

No comments: