The Lovely Bones has an interesting premise — a 14-year-old girl who was murdered by a neighbor looks from heaven on her loved ones back on earth — but it doesn't follow through with new insights about heaven or earth.
This could even have been an interesting mystery novel if the clues that Susie Salmon's father, Jack, found had been followed up and the murderer apprehended. The detective drops the ball, and the story of the killer just peters out, leaving you wondering why the police investigation and the sleuthing by Jack and Susie's sister Lindsey were given so many pages.
Perhaps Sebold is saying that, unlike in mystery novels, everything isn't neatly wrapped up in real life. But this story doesn't feel so real. The narrator doesn't sound like a 14-year-old. The grief of family members isn't palpable. Ruth, a former classmate, has a preternatural ability to sense the dead Susie even though they weren't friends in life. When Susie is given the brief opportunity to inhabit Ruth's body, she uses it to have sex with a former crush but not to tell him who killed her and where her body is. Susie's mother runs away from her grief but then is welcomed back as if she's been away for a few days instead of years. The ending is a too-neat moving on by family members.
Susie's heaven is disappointing, too. Even if you forgive Sebold for vagueness about the particulars, what kind of a heaven is it when you are all wrapped up in those you left and their pain?
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