Book review: “The Lovely Bones”


Copies of the Lovely Bones are available in the VHS library. Graphic by: Soraya Stegall

Soraya Stegall

A story about life, death and everything in between

Set in the early 70’s, Alice Sebold’s book, “The Lovely Bones”, tells the story of fourteen-year-old Susie Salmon, who was raped and murdered in her quiet suburban neighborhood. In her afterlife, called the “In-Between,” Susie watches her friends and family carry on living in a world without her. While the book deals with heavy topics such as death, rape, the inherent struggle of adolescence and even romance, Sebold poetically ties all these subjects together in a devastatingly beautiful sequence to breathe life and hope into a cold, mortal world.

After Susie is brutally murdered by her neighbor Mr. Harvey, her spirit flees through her town. Accidentally, she brushes across Ruth Connors, a peer from her middle school, and from then on, Ruth becomes a key character in the story. It is because of their encounter, the living with the dead, that Ruth develops an interest in both Susie and other women who were victims of fatal, violent crimes. This second sight allows her to feel a connection and duty to the dead. Ruth serves as Susie’s earthly counterpart. During one of the most important and intense moments of the novel, Susie’s spirit forces its way to inhabit Ruth’s body. For a short time, Susie is able to experience once again how wondrous it feels to be alive again, a feeling she so for painfully longer. 

The author Alice Sebolds wrote the book inspired by her own experience as a victim of rape. Photo by: Soraya Stegall

As news of her death spreads across town and the investigation into her murder begins, Susie watches as all members of her family struggle with their own bit of how her death affected their lives. Her father seems to take her passing the hardest, and several times Susie pushes past the barrier from the In-Between to Earth, doing anything she can to send her loved ones a sign that she is watching them. 

Hazy Tyson ‘23 said, “I think the book was super emotional. The writing was really good, and I like how in-depth it was.” 

Susie remains in the In-Between for the majority of the book. Here she meets another young girl named Franny, who was also a murder victim, who guides her through the afterlife. Susie laments over the life she will never get to live and achingly wishes for Mr. Harvey to die. The grudges she holds are what prevent her from leaving the In-Between and being at rest in Heaven, and Susie soon begins to see the pain and destruction her hesitancy causes for her family. Though it is difficult to do, she must come to terms with the fact that her loved ones will go on living and she will not. 

In 2009, the novel was turned into a film starring Saiorse Ronan as Susie and Stanley Tucci as her murderer, Mr. Harvey.


Jade Wright ‘23 said, “The Lovely Bones was an amazing movie, and it was the first movie I cried to. I have heard of the book, but I haven’t read it yet. I really want to, though.”

“The Lovely Bones” is a triumphant novel that teaches us that acceptance is recovery. When we learn to accept the inevitable, we can be at peace. Letting go is not easy. It is painful, sacrificial even, and yet Susie Salmon’s character testifies to the beauty that comes with something so seemingly tragic. Even in death, her youthful character represents a glimmer of hope and life.

 To quote page 320 of “The Lovely Bones,” “These were the lovely bones that had grown around my absence: the connections- sometimes tenuous, sometimes made at great cost, but often magnificent- that happened after I was gone. And I began to see things in a way that let me hold the world without me in it.”