Hello, people of the internet! Today’s post is the first in a series called ‘Books That Have Stayed’. This isn’t about books that have stayed in my collection (believe me, it would be a VERY long series – I honestly struggle to get rid of books, but more on that another time). Instead it’s about books that have stayed with me in my memory and have become a part of my identity, my beliefs and a part of how I see and deal the world. It’s an important topic for me, especially since it just shows how powerful stories can be and I want to show my appreciation and love for them.
To start off this little series, I’ve chosen The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold. I briefly mentioned The Lovely Bones in my ‘My Friday Thoughts – I am the Reader’ post and I feel it deserves its very own post.
I’ll try my very best not to spoil the book for those who haven’t read it, though I will admit it’ll be tricky.
My name is Salmon, like the fish; first name, Susie. I was fourteen years when I was murdered on December 6, 1973. My murderer was a man from our neighborhood. My mother liked his border flowers, and my father talked to him once about fertilizer.
This is Susie Salmon, speaking to us from heaven. It looks a lot like her school playground, with the good kind of swing sets. There are counsellors to help newcomers to adjust, and friends to room with. Everything she wants appears as soon as she thinks of it – expect the thing she wants most: to be back with the people she loved on earth.
From heaven, Susie watches. She sees her happy suburban family implode after her death, as each member tries to come to terms with the terrible loss. Over the years, her friends and siblings grow up, fall in love, do all the things she never had the chance to do herself. But life is not quite finished with Susie yet.
I was fifteen years old when I first read this book and I’m not exaggerating when I say that I absolutely hated it. This is because I read murder thrillers beforehand and they had ‘fairy tale like’ qualities to them – a happy ending of sorts (I mean, the person’s still dead, but the body is found and/or the murderer’s been caught and is punished). I was aware that, in reality, murders aren’t always solved, so I found those kinds of murder thrillers to be more satisfying. So when I read The Lovely Bones and it didn’t have those qualities in that same way, I was upset.
Like, really upset.
It felt me feeling distraught and angry for days afterwards. I never had a book affect me so much and I hated how the book made me feel. I wanted a stronger justice for Susie and her family and I felt like what happened to her murderer wasn’t good enough. To me, it wasn’t a happy ending.
However, I have no idea how it occurred to me, somehow it did, but I realised I wouldn’t be feeling this way if it wasn’t for how fantastic the writing and story was. It made me want to see Susie and her friends and family happy. When they were upset, I was upset. When there were funny moments, I found them funny and I appreciated those funny moments after so much tragedy. All the characters are so complex, they are like real people to me. I wanted Susie and her family happy because they meant so much to me.
So, I gave The Lovely Bones a reread. It turns out I missed the point of it. What I got from it is a very important life lesson. Even when there seems to be no happiness left, when everything you know has changed, when someone you love has died and the people you know and love are still alive yet become like different people in their grief: happiness and love is still there even when it seems to have ceased to exist. It can take a lot of time to accept tragedy, and that’s okay. People do change and can make difficult, and sometimes dangerous, decisions, but that doesn’t mean there can no longer be happiness, hope or love.
Even after the worst things that could have possibly happened, there’s still goodness left in life.
I still believe in this moral today. For when there is tragedy in my life, I understand grief more and I understand that I will not be the same person because of it, but I find comfort in knowing that I will be happy again.
I still read those fairy-tale murder thrillers from time to time, but it doesn’t have the same satisfying feeling I used to have. When I reread The Lovely Bones, especially during the winter months as it is a winter book to me, I get that satisfying feeling from there instead.
Susie’s narration is so powerful and well-written, I feel like I know her as a real person. The story is absolutely perfect. It has a mixture of events; from upsetting moments to happy moments, from slow-moving moments to adrenaline-running moments. I felt every emotion reading this book; only a few books that done that to me. Everything about this book is a masterpiece.
That’s why The Lovely Bones has stayed with me. It has helped me to prepare me for reality’s tragedies. And for that, I am forever grateful for its existence.
I strongly recommend this book for those who haven’t read it. However, I will warn you that it does deal with very serious issues such as rape and murder, which some people may find distressing.
If you have read the book, I’d like to know what you thought of it. Did you love it as much as I did or did you hate it? Feel free to leave a comment or message me on Twitter and/or Facebook.
Thank you for reading!