Independent Student Newspaper for the University of Texas at San Antonio

The Paisano

Independent Student Newspaper for the University of Texas at San Antonio

The Paisano

Independent Student Newspaper for the University of Texas at San Antonio

The Paisano

Spiritual thriller lacks poetic sensitivity

They were Susie Salmon’s final moments of life: Mr. Harvey leaned to the side and felt, over his head, across the ledge where his razor and shaving cream sat. He brought back a knife. With only seconds to spare before her last breath, Susie most likely cursed herself for being so naïve and allowing her curiosity to get the best of her. Tell me you love me, Mr. Harvey said to her. And she did. But the end came anyway. . .

   Susie’s aready dead, and it’s through  the narration of Salmon’s spirit in heaven that Alice Sebold begins her bestselling novel– “The Lovely Bones.”  Its movie treatment is set for release in January and the book has been re-released in preperation. 

   On Dec. 6, 1973, long before the days when pictures of missing children appeared on the back of milk cartons, Susie Salmon’s photo is added to the stockpile of missing girls, in hopes that, one day, she too will be found.

   But there’s only one problem. In a small town near Philadelphia, Penn., the family and community of a 14 year-old girl struggle to come to terms with the mysterious disappearance of their daughter Susie.

   But resolution is the farthest thing from reality for the members of the Salmon family, who find themselves living vicariously through Susie’s memory.

   As the novel unfolds, Susie’s point-of-view is filtered through family, friends and flashbacks. While she continues to watch over the people she loves, she can’t help but miss the special moments in life that she never had the chance to experience—her adolescence stolen. At the same time, Mr. Harvey continues his daily routine, resisting the urge to prey again.

   When suspicions begin pointing to Mr. Harvey, Lindsey, Susie’s sister, takes the biggest step in gathering evidence against Mr. Harvey.

As if mocking Susie’s attempt at divine intervention, however, Mr. Harvey lives to kill another day.

   But this book is about more than just trying to catch a killer.

   Ruth Connors, the last person to feel Susie’s soul on its way to heaven, becomes obsessed with knowing Susie, whose past seems to be intertwined in Ruth’s daily life. And in a scene reminiscent from the movie “Ghost,” Susie uses Ruth’s body to enact one last fit of passion with Ray Singh, the first boy Susie kissed before she left the earth.

   Sebold abandons the clichéd murder-mystery archetype and produces a thriller that thrives on the art of captivation, intrigue and desire.    

   With an infinite ability to see all things from heaven, Susie witnesses more than the Christmas family celebration—and she realizes some skeletons are better left in the closet.

    While Sebold’s prose style is far from the graceful perfection of authors like Gore Vidal and Jhumpa Lahiri, Sebold does manage to write with a “trendy,” syntactical immaturity that seems to lure readers and capture larger audiences (i.e. Stephanie Meyer).  By contrast, however, Sebold tends to indulge in a buffet of metaphorical embellishments.  

   On the other hand, the author does a good job of building the likeability of the main character and twisting the plot in so many directions that the novel feels like a feature meshing the kitschy qualities of “High School Musical” with the unpredictability of “Final Destination.”

More to Discover