"Reading is a means of thinking with another person's mind; it forces you to stretch your own."
~Charles Scribner, Jr.
~Charles Scribner, Jr.
As you may have seen from a photo in my Christmas post, I read The Lovely Bones over the holidays. I figure, now is as good a time as any to post my review.
Set in the 1970s, the book is narrated by Susie Salmon, a young teenage girl who announces in the first sentence of the book that she was murdered. We also soon find out that she was brutally raped prior to the murder, but I don't think Susie ever says the word "rape," except for once later in the book, not even referring to her own experience.
Susie narrates from her own version of heaven, but since she, herself, has not yet come to terms with her own death, she spends the majority of her days watching her family and friends grieve, wishing to console them. She follows their daily activities, hoping for a chance to let them know she is okay. She also follows her killer, a neighbor, who she simply knew as Mr. Harvey, learning the deep ugly truth about this quiet, solitary man.
Susie, not yet ready to let go of her life, lives the milestone moments of life vicariously through her younger sister. She watches her father's never-ceasing struggle to find her killer and discover what really happened to her the night she was murdered. She watches her baby brother grow up, her mother estrange herself from the family, and her grandmother move in to help run the household. Susie might learn more about life than her 14-year old mind really wanted to know.
The book was certainly intriguing. The rape and murder told in the first chapter held my attention and left me wanting to know how it all ended, hoping for justice. Seeing the scene and the years following from the eyes of a 14-year old who knew what happened, was interesting, but at times frustrating. I wanted the detective and her family to figure things out more quickly. I wanted the rapist -- who, we find out, is in fact a serial rapist and killer -- to be caught, be humiliated, to suffer, and die. I guess I just needed to be patient...
Shortly after I read the book, Katie and I went to see the movie version, which came out in mid-January. As you know, generally I dislike reading a book before seeing the movie (if there is one) because I'm usually disappointed by the movie. I prefer to end the whole experience with the part I enjoy the most -- the book. However, I was pleasantly surprised by how well the movie portrayed even the most minute of details from the book. Certainly some things were left out and a couple of minor things were changed, but overall, it may have been the best adaptation of a book I've ever seen. (At least, that I can think of, right now.) I thought they did an excellent job bringing the story to life.
The actors were well cast. Stanley Tucci was convincingly creepy as Mr. Harvey, which I found a impressive since earlier in 2009, he was so wonderfully charming as Julia Child's husband in Julie & Julia. Though Mark Wahlberg would not have been my first choice for Susie's father, he did a fine job. And by the end of the movie, Susan Sarandon also won me over as the grandmother.
Alice Sebold's gripping story seems, somehow, delicate when told from Susie's more innocent 14-year old point of view. The pain and grief, which are requisite in a story like this and ever-present, ultimately evolve into hope. Sebold's writing is lovely, yet appropriately disturbing, and Peter Jackson's skill in film adaptation is to be praised.