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The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold

Updated on September 25, 2014
The Lovely Bones - a novel by Alice Sebold
The Lovely Bones - a novel by Alice Sebold

The Lovely Bones: the bestselling novel by Alice Sebold

In her novel The Lovely Bones, author Alice Sebold takes a shocking and upsetting theme - the rape and murder of a child, and from this dark background weaves a poignant, thought provoking and uplifting tale of enduring love, acceptance and redemption.

Based on her own real-life experience of rape, Alice Sebold uses her traumatic experience to approach an uncomfortable subject with both frankness and sensitivity.

The Lovely Bones is a coming of age story with a difference...the person "coming of age" is dead!

The narrator of The Lovely Bones is Susie Salmon, a 14 year old girl from an ordinary family with the ordinary hopes and dreams of a teenage girl on the brink of adulthood.

Tragically Susie is murdered by a neighbour in 1973 and her body is never found. Her family endure unbearable pain and despair, yet from her own particular version of heaven, Susie watches the lives of those she left behind unfold over a period of years. She watches as her friends and family grieve for her and she sees how her parents grow apart, as the way they deal with her loss sends their lives in different directions. She also watches the man who took her life and the lives of many other young girls and she bides her time...

A movie version of The Lovely Bones was released in 2009.

"My name was Salmon, like the fish; first name, Susie.

I was fourteen when I was murdered on December 6, 1973."

— Susie Salmon: The Lovely Bones

Characters In "The Lovely Bones"

Lovely Bones characters

Susie Salmon - a 14-year-old girl who is raped and murdered by her neighbour Mr Harvey. Susie watches the lives of her friends and family and narrates the events of the novel from her own version of heaven.

Jack Salmon - Susie's father, who works for an insurance agency in Pennsylvania.

Abigail Salmon - Susie's mother. She seems to resent her family as her responsibilities to them have prevented her from fulfilling her own dreams and ambitions. She eventually has an affair with Len Fenerman, the detective who investigates Susie's disappearance.

Lindsey Salmon - Susie's younger sister.

Buckley Salmon - Susie's brother, who is four years old at the time of her disappearance. Buckley is sometimes able to "see" Susie after her death.

Grandma Lynn - Susie's grandmother. Lynn comes to live with Susie's father Jack to help him look after Lindsey and Buckley after Susie's mother leaves home.

George Harvey - the Salmons' neighbour. He is a serial killer who has killed several other girls as well as Susie. Eventually Susie's father starts to suspect that Harvey is connected with Susie's disappearance, although he has no proof and Susie's body is never discovered. Harvey leaves town to continue his murderous exploits elsewhere. Susie watches him as well as her friends and family.

Ruth Connors - an acquaintance of Susie's who has psychic abilities. As Susie dies, her spirit touches Ruth as she leaves the earth. Ruth becomes fascinated with Susie, despite hardly having known her while she was alive. Her psychic abilities develop and she devotes her life to writing about the visions of the dead people she sees.

Ray Singh - Susie's "boyfriend". Their relationship was in the very early stages when Susie died and Ray was the first and only boy Susie ever kissed. Ray is initially suspected of murdering Susie but proves his alibi for the time of her disappearance. He later becomes friends with Ruth due to her fascination with Susie and Susie "possess" Ruth in order to say goodbye to Ray.

Ruana Singh - Ray's mother. Neighbour and later friend of Susie's mother Abigail.

Samuel Heckler - Lindsey's boyfriend and eventual husband.

Hal Heckler - Sam's older brother who runs a motorcycle repair shop.

Len Fenerman - the police detective in charge of investigating Susie's disappearance. He and Susie's mother Abigail, have an affair.

Clarissa - Susie's best friend on Earth.

Holly - Susie's best friend and roommate in heaven.

Franny, Susie and Holly's guide and mentor in heaven.

Holiday, Susie's dog.

"What I think was hardest for me to realize was that he had tried each time to stop himself. He had killed animals, taking lesser lives to keep from killing a child."

— Susie Salmon: The Lovely Bones

The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold is available from

Why I Liked The Lovely Bones!

My review of The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold

I first heard of The Lovely Bones when I heard two colleagues talking about it. To be precise, they were raving about it!

Rather than wait to borrow their copy, I bought my own and read it from cover to cover in one sitting.

The plot revolves around a murder victim, a teenage girl called Susie Salmon. Susie tells the story of her life, death and the aftermath, from her own version of "heaven".

Susie is a likable character and she is able to follow the lives of her family, friends and even her murderer from a "fly-on-the-wall" perspective which allows her to be a silent witness to both their actions and their hidden emotions. She also has to come to terms with her new existence in a kind of "heavenly reception area" which she shares with another recently deceased girl. Both girls are under the guidance of a mentor who is there to help them come to terms with what has happened in their own way and in their own time before they themselves move on onto whatever comes next for them .

What I liked was the way in which Alice Sebold (a rape victim herself), used her own experience of a traumatic event to weave a complex tale about how life changing events affect not only the victim but those around them. She manages to do this without resorting to either sensationalism or over-doing the sentimentality aspect. The result is a bittersweet tale of what might have been for Susie and those who care for her. They are all forced by circumstance to undergo an individual journey which eventually takes each of them to the same place - the realisation of the need to accept that what has happened has happened and cannot be changed and that they all have to move on, no matter how hard that seems.

Susie's rape and murder is brutal. Her body is never found, so her family is left to endure perpetual hope mixed with pain and grief at her loss and the fact that they never really obtain "closure". Susie's murderer is a serial killer who has evaded detection successfully and thinks he is beyond the reach of justice and he coolly watches on the sidelines as her family and friends are torn apart.

Bad things happen in "The Lovely Bones" - things that make the reader angry and sad, yet there's more to the story than "just" Susie's terrible death and the devastation caused by it. The themes that run through the book are of love and hope and the overall feel of the story is a positive one.

After I read The Lovely Bones, I found myself thinking a lot about all sorts of things - missed opportunities, relationships that went wrong, how we can so easily take people in our lives for granted because we assume they'll always be there, what happens when we many things...and to me, a story that manages to make people THINK is a good one!

The Lovely Bones is not going to be everyone's cup of tea though, but on the whole Alice Sebold has written a good tale that will engage the majority of it's readers. It's by no means a piece of classic literature, but I don't think it was ever intended to be, despite all the hype!

The Lovely Bones is an interesting read and I suspect that it's the type of book that polarises opinion - people either love it or hate it, with not many in the middle!

Personally speaking, I loved it!

"I loved Ruth on those mornings . . . we were born to keep each other company. Odd girls who had found each other in the strangest way - in the shiver she had felt when I passed."

— Susie Salmon: The Lovely Bones

Who Was Your Favourite Character In "The Lovely Bones"?

My Favourite Character In The Lovely Bones Was...

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Listen To Chapter 1 Of The Lovely Bones

"When the dead are done with the living, the living can go on to other things," Franny said.

"What about the dead?" I asked. "Where do we go?"

— Susie and Franny: The Lovely Bones

Did YOU Enjoy "The Lovely Bones"?

What's your opinion on The Lovely Bones?

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Have YOU Read "The Lovely Bones"? - What did you think of "The Lovely Bones"? Love it or hate it?

The Lovely Bones - Worth All The Hype?

A good read

A good read

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    • yellowbrickroad 4 years ago

      One of the wonderful things about this book is the fact that the child's joy in living comes through. It's a tragic subject treated with a strange gentleness.

    • chatterless 5 years ago

      I loved the ending for George Harvey!

    • NAIZA LM 5 years ago

      I already seen the movie but haven't read the book yet. Very nice sad story.

    • franstan lm 5 years ago

      When I started I was unable to put it down

    • littlezotz 6 years ago

      I vote that it's "A good read." I feel differently about it--and notice different things--each time I read it. It always leaves me feeling sad, but also a little happy/relieved. Like having a friend die (sad), but knowing they're in a better place (happy/relieved). Not many books deal with the death of a loved one in such a "real" way.

    • KatBar 6 years ago

      It was a great read and a very good movie. It was well done considering the topic.

    • Oliversbabycarecouk 6 years ago

      Oh i loved 'The lovely bones' such a heart filled story and so sad :( x

    • MargoPArrowsmith 6 years ago


    • Jennifer P Tanabe 6 years ago from Red Hook, NY

      I really enjoyed reading the book. I was never bored, nor turned off by the topic. I think she got it just right!

    • Missmerfaery444 6 years ago

      I thought it was wonderfully done - Alice took a very delicate subject and wove a completely readable story out of it. I'm not sure I'd want to see the film version of it funnily enough, though. For me, it is one of those books that you read and it touches you, and you leave it at that :)

    • jackieb99 6 years ago

      I loved it! And the movie was great too.

    • jolielaide75 6 years ago

      I loved this book

    • lostinfiction 7 years ago

      Loved the book, and I must say, this is a terrific lens too! I wanted to create an author page for Sebold on the Infloox site, but didn't have enough info... then I stumbled across your lens. Good job! :)

    • SparkleNZ 7 years ago

      Yes, definitely. It's a hard book to read as the themes are certainly disturbing. But there is such a transcendent humanity about the story and its treatment. I can't imagine any movie could do the book's complexities justice but I am ready to be surprised by Peter Jackson - if anyone can pull off The Lovely Bones movie, he can.

    • jerilynkaram 7 years ago


    • jerilynkaram 7 years ago

      Beautiful story inspired by Alice's unfortunate experience of being raped as a college student.

    • anonymous 7 years ago

      I LOVED it! That's all I have to say. One of the best books i've ever read!

    • anonymous 7 years ago

      This book is amazing. I got choked up on page 25, and cried on page 50. After that i cried a couple more times. I usually don't get THIS much into a book, but i couldn't help myself. I lovedddd it :]

    • anonymous 7 years ago

      I think Mr.Harvey is a bitch !

    • DongMei 7 years ago

      One of my favorite books.


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      • Everyday-Miracles 5 years ago

        MASSIVELY overrated. Some books I read, and I like them better when I reflect on them, others fade from memory or I remember them as overdone when I enjoyed them on the first read. The Lovely Bones is one of the latter. I enjoyed it the first time around, but would have said it was nothing special. As time has passed, I've started to realize just how overdone it was.

        Of course, my taste in fiction is often unconventional!

      • anonymous 8 years ago

        Incredibly overrated. Not worth your time. Near the end of the book, I think that the author just kind of went off and did whatever she wanted without thinking. A concept that could have been actually done well put into the genre of chick-lit by an untalented writer.

      The Lovely Bones Film (2009)

      The Lovely Bones movie poster
      The Lovely Bones movie poster | Source

      The Movie Version of The Lovely Bones

      Directed by Peter Jackson, The Lovely Bones film was released in late 2009.

      Main Cast:

      Saoirse Ronan as Susie Salmon

      Mark Wahlberg as Jack Salmon

      Rachel Weisz as Abigail Salmon

      Susan Sarandon as Grandma Lyn

      Carolyn Dando as Ruth Connors

      Reece Ritchie as Ray Singh

      Nikki SooHoo as Holly

      Stanley Tucci as George Harvey

      The Lovely Bones Movie Trailer

      © 2008 LouiseKirkpatrick

      "The Lovely Bones" - Feedback - Have you read "The Lovely Bones" By Alice Sebold? Would you like to? Share your thoughts here!

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        • Linda BookLady profile image

          Linda Jo Martin 4 years ago from Post Falls, Idaho, USA

          I liked it because of the unique point of view... the character of a dead teenager... but the crime scene was brutal and hard to read.

        • NAIZA LM profile image

          NAIZA LM 5 years ago

          I'm a big fan of the whole story!

        • harty5680 profile image

          harty5680 5 years ago

          @Oliversbabycarecouk: I saw the movie. Is it worth reading the book?

        • jptanabe profile image

          Jennifer P Tanabe 5 years ago from Red Hook, NY

          Blessed by an angel on the Memorial Day bus trip!

        • littlezotz profile image

          littlezotz 6 years ago

          I have read the book several times. I was given a hardcover copy of it for my 18th birthday in 2003. I read it a bunch of times and then it was stolen by my evil ex. My best gal pal replaced it for me year before last and I re-read it again then. My fiancé took me to see the movie version on opening day (good, but not as good as the book...). Good stuff.

        • CathyLou LM profile image

          CathyLou LM 6 years ago

          I have seen the movie, but will definitely be reading the book also now. Nice review and information.

        • profile image

          Oliversbabycarecouk 6 years ago

          Great lens - i have seen the movie and read the book so different! x

        • NAIZA LM profile image

          NAIZA LM 6 years ago

          What a touching story and a wonderful movie adaptation too. ~Blessed by an angel..~

        • MargoPArrowsmith profile image

          MargoPArrowsmith 6 years ago

          I am lensrolling this to The Girls,

        • jptanabe profile image

          Jennifer P Tanabe 6 years ago from Red Hook, NY

          "The Lovely Bones" is definitely an unusual book, but one that I thoroughly enjoyed reading. You've done a great job on this review. Blessed.

        • LouiseKirkpatrick profile image

          LouiseKirkpatrick 6 years ago from Berkshire, United Kingdom

          @Missmerfaery444: I couldn't agree more! TLB is one of the most memorable books I've ever read - and the way it polarises opinion is interesting :)

        • Missmerfaery444 profile image

          Missmerfaery444 6 years ago

          The Lovely Bones is what I call a "special" book - one of those that you read and it stays with you forever. You reviewed it so well here and created a really good lens, and for that I am blessing it! :)

        • LouiseKirkpatrick profile image

          LouiseKirkpatrick 7 years ago from Berkshire, United Kingdom

          @indigoj: w00t a blessing!!!!!!

          Thank you Word Custard :D

        • indigoj profile image

          Indigo Janson 7 years ago from UK

          Fantastic, detailed review of this book. Leaving an *~*~ Angel Blessing ~*~* from a new Angel.

        • Holley Web profile image

          Holley Web 7 years ago

          Excellent review! You've made me decide to read this book. Thank you for in-depth look at the characters and story line.

        • profile image

          anonymous 7 years ago

          I think the intro is outstanding, but the book gets more and more boring as you read, I feel like the book was an amazing read, but Alice Sebold did kind of drift away in some parts.

        • SparkleNZ profile image

          SparkleNZ 7 years ago

          This is an amazing book. Don't let the disturbing sound of the content put you off - while it does tackle difficult themes, it is handled so sensitively. A must read.

        • TreasuresBrenda profile image

          Treasures By Brenda 8 years ago from Canada

          Sounds like a good book, you've done a great job on this lens and I've blessed it today.


        • Adrienne Jenkins profile image

          Adrienne Jenkins 8 years ago

          Amazing book. Finished in one sitting. Swept up by absorbing character.

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