How A Book Rekindled My Relationship
I haven’t seen my sister in ten years. It isn’t as if we don’t like each other, it had more to do with other family members than us. Nonetheless, time passed and an occasional email update slowly got replaced with Facebook wall posts as a means of connecting. Then one day we found ourselves once again in the midst of family "drama". What began as an argument ended in an understanding of our loss for each other’s company. But how do you begin to build communication out of years of neglect and family issues?
What are you reading?
“Lonely Bones” by Alice Sebold; Review
When my sister mentioned she was reading “Lovely Bones” by Alice Sebold, I knew this was my way in. My sister has always been the quintessential mother and wife; attending PTA meetings, hosting the Tupperware parties, chaperoning dances, and the like. We could not be any more different. As I knew her weakness for such groups, I quickly took advantage of this opportunity to mend what has been torn for so many years. I asked my sister to read it with me; our own little book club.
(Do not continue to read this is you have not read the book; I will write in detail of what’s happening throughout it).
Eagerly taking this opportunity, I ventured off on my lunch break to the nearest Barnes and Nobles and picked up a copy. Grabbing my phone I sent a quick text, "I just got it; I’ll meet you at chapter 8.” The first two pages pulled me in immediately. Sitting at my desk after I returned from lunch, I opened the cover. I knew very little about the story; just that a little girl died and she tries to help her dad find her killer. But after the first two pages, I knew this story had so much more to offer. Reading from a point of view of an adolescent, 14 in fact, took a little it to a whole other level for me. Having 14 and 11 year old girls myself, I could empathize with the characters as they experienced violence, anger, pain, sorrow, and loss.
My sister was already on page 67 when I bought my copy. As soon as I arrived at work, I opened up the book and read the first 7 pages. I wrote to my sister expressing my excitement to continue reading this book, in which she replies, “you haven’t even reached the worst part”. She was running errands until late, so I had an opportunity to get caught up. When I got home, I read as much as I could between the distractions of the kids, husband, and preparing dinner.
At chapter eight, as we promised, we stopped and met on line to chat. “Can you believe they haven’t found the trap door yet”, “Can you imagine discovering a child’s elbow?”, “I can’t believe they built a tent together”, “Will he kill again in that tent, right beside the house?”, “What’s up with the mom, something weird is going on there”. “Was it me, or did there seem to be an instant connection with the father and Ruana?”, “Poor Susie, poor family”.
It wasn't much, but it was the longest conversation I’ve had with my sister without fussing in years.
We agreed to meet back up at chapter 14, but the in between was too great to not comment on. A lot happened between chapters 8 and 14; too much to keep to myself. At page 136, I sent her a text, scared for the flickering light in the cornfield. Excited, she tells me to tell her when I get to the cops arriving at the house. I commented on how I knew there was something between the mom and cop, then she speculated that the wives names were his victims. Both of us stopped to comment about how bazaar it was that kids would meet up at the same field that a girl was just murdered.
At page 158, I was taken back by the time frame for the story. Now being one year since her death, it evoked a feeling of sorrow for the family, and wonder for the child not able to move on (in her heaven). A whole year without knowing what happened, no closure to speak of. My sister was ahead of me, on page 209, and mentioned the upcoming candle ceremony. I raced to catch up with her.
In between talks of the book and the vivid characters that Alice portrays, I was feeling under the weather. My sister, in her own way, was trying to nurture me back to health with the known-to-work remedies for everything. We talked about what were having for dinner, and what the kids were doing. Now at page 228, my sister had finished the book. “It get’s weird, and I’m not sure about the ending. Let me know when you finish”, she types to me by text. Then it happened. She called me. I haven’t heard my sister’s voice in so long, but I could never mistake it. “They’re getting married”, I proclaim, wondering if a relationship that started out so young could last in reality. She knew exactly where I was in the book, and couldn’t wait to hear my thoughts on the ending. If only for a moment in time, we connected over this book. I hung up the phone, grinning, and continued to read.
When the mother returns after seven years on page 269, I sent my sister a quick note of the feelings that were sparked by her return. Although I cannot imagine having lost my own daughter, I can’t imagine purposely losing the other at will either. Yet, there was a sort of understanding that I felt for the character Abigial. Her un-acceptance, numbness, and need to escape was understandable, even if I didn’t agree with it. During my readings, as well as in life, my heart has always been soft for the father. I pitied and admired him.
Reading about the sinkhole made me very curious. What is a sinkhole anyway? Can you retrieve anything from it? Will they find the body? My curiosities led me to research. Although living in Florida where sinkholes are known to be, I’ve never actually seen one. The pictures reveal a large crater-like portion of the earth that has been depleted through the center which displays a hole, as the name implies. But can you ever find something that has been lost in the hole? Apparently you can, but it a lot of work and use of heavy machinery.
At page 298, less than 30 pages to go, I adjusted myself on the couch firmly when Mr. Harvey spotted Lindsey in the window. I briefly send a note of excitement of my nearing the end to my sister, and make note of my concern for Lindsey. Immediately, I followed with the fear for Ruth in the same manner on the next page. The end is near.
I took several minutes before calling my sister after finishing the book. I held on her words, “it gets weird” and know now she is referring to Susie entering Ruth’s body. But if you are going to accept a heaven, spirits, ghosts, and the like, then it is fair to assume that this is a possibility. After all, if one can proclaim to see the dead, feel the dead, and talk to the dead then it is safe to assume the dead could transform into the body of the willing. One could say. It is fiction after all.
I wouldn’t say that I did not like the ending, but I did feel it was lacking of justice. To be truly satisfied, I would expect to read a horrible death for Mr. Harvey, or at best his capture. His death was too sudden and not nearly as tragic as he deserved. In my mind, he got away with it, all of it, and because of that I am left feeling dissatisfied. Yet in reality, how often could it be true that murderers and rapist do not get caught at all; that in the end, either by natural causes or by fate, they meet their death. It is natural to want him punished; to want him to feel remorse. In our “fantasy world” the entire wicked are punished.
I anticipated through the years the book scanned, that her body would be discovered and I still hold hopes for the sink hole even after the book is done. It left the reader with the debate of whether the clearing of the land will uncover or forever enclose the bones of this little girl tucked away in a safe beneath the earth. Although I wish upon the family to find the truth and have closure, Alice Sebold creates the environment of the family’s own closure and commitment to move on with her memory and not her death. It is because of this, I am left hoping they would not have to go through all the pain and suffering all over again by the discovery of here remains.
The book did a fantastic job drawing you in and created vivid imagery of all the characters. And although it was a mere tool I used to bridge the gap between me and my sister, I will proclaim that as a mother, it touched me as well. I feel impelled to warn my daughters of creepy men, of dark places, of the possibility of evil. I will share this book with them, and eagerly await the conversations we will have about it.
I called my sister proudly, having finished the book a mere 17 hours later than her. As we debated on the book’s intentions and jokingly argued over the ending, I felt a familiarity in our laughter. I began my rant about poor Susie and her need to feel some warmth and connection after such trauma in her death, but also how I expected her to reveal all the secrets only she had known. Naturally, I presumed correctly on what my sister’s found “weird” and of course had to give my two cents on it. We discussed several sections of the book; why the cops didn’t recognize Mr. Harvey after returning to town, the mother’s absence through it all, and the poor father. I could tell she really didn’t like the ending, and although it left much to be desired for my own liking, the story as a whole did what it was intended to do; it sparked interest, curiosities, and conversation.
The book may have ended, but for at least three days, my sister and I connected once again. Although we may always remain opposites in our lives, one thing will always remain the same, our love for one another. I am anxious to pick our next book, in hopes it will last longer.