In the beginning, we know that 14-year-old Susie Salmon is dead—brutally, horrifyingly murdered on her way home from school. In the end, thanks to the miraculous narrative talents of Alice Sebold, we know that Susie Salmon is one of the more captivating creations of recent fiction.
In Sebold's first novel, The Lovely Bones (Little Brown), she has crafted a gripping tale of tragedy and grief that play themselves out in a family, in a community, and in the afterlife of the victim. As Susie looks down on her family, her monstrous, damaged serial killer, and on her first love from the place she calls heaven, the intensity of her desire to remain real to them and to know what it might have been to have lived and grown old gives her the strange power to touch the lives of those she has left behind. Part detective story, part family drama, part meditation on what lies beyond, The Lovely Bones is a page-turner in the most literary sense.
"Inside the snow globe...the penguin was alone...and I worried for him. When I told my father this, he said, 'Don't worry, Susie; he has a nice life. He's trapped in a perfect world.'" Susie Salmon and her family learn there's no such thing as a perfect world, only a perfect enough one. That Sebold so brilliantly maintains all of the narrative strands and hard-to-swallow conceits she has set in motion is nothing short of a revelation.