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The Lovely Bones Book Summary

A Novel

by Alice Sebold

The Lovely Bones

A Novel

Alice Sebold


The Lovely Bones is a poignant and haunting novel that tells the story of Susie Salmon, a 14-year-old girl who is murdered in 1973. From her personal heaven, Susie observes the impact of her death on her family, friends, and killer, while grappling with her own grief and yearning for justice. The novel explores themes of loss, grief, memory, family bonds, and the enduring power of love.

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Author & Writing Background

Alice Sebold is an American writer known for her poignant and often unsettling exploration of trauma and loss. Her own experience of sexual assault during her college years deeply influenced her writing, particularly in her memoir, Lucky. Sebold’s writing style is characterized by its lyrical prose, emotional depth, and unflinching honesty. The Lovely Bones, her most famous work, became an international bestseller and was adapted into a film in 2009.

Key Takeaways

Susie’s Perspective from Heaven

The novel is narrated by Susie from her personal heaven, offering a unique perspective on the aftermath of her death and the lives of those she left behind.

Impact of Loss and Grief

The story delves deeply into the profound impact of Susie’s death on her family, friends, and community, exploring the complexities of grief, guilt, and the struggle to find meaning in the face of tragedy.

The Search for Justice

The novel follows the investigation into Susie’s murder and the relentless pursuit of justice by her family, particularly her father, who becomes consumed by the need to find her killer.

Family Bonds and Resilience

Despite the devastating loss, the Salmon family strives to find ways to cope and support one another, highlighting the enduring strength of family bonds in the face of adversity.

Coming-of-Age in the Afterlife

From her heaven, Susie observes the world and experiences a unique form of coming-of-age, grappling with her own emotions and desires while witnessing the changes and growth of those she loved.

Exploration of Memory and Time

The novel explores the nature of memory and how it shapes our understanding of the past, present, and future. Susie’s memories and observations from heaven intertwine with the experiences of those on earth, creating a complex tapestry of time and perspective.

The Power of Love and Forgiveness

Despite the darkness and pain, the novel ultimately conveys a message of hope and the enduring power of love and forgiveness to heal and transcend tragedy.

Social Commentary

The novel subtly touches upon social issues of the 1970s, such as gender roles, suburban life, and the impact of crime on communities.

FAQ about The Lovely Bones

The Lovely Bones Quotes

  • These were the lovely bones that had grown around my absence: the connections—sometimes tenuous, sometimes made at great cost, but often magnificent—that happened after I was gone.
  • I was alive and I was dead. I was a girl and I was a memory.
  • I came to understand that we went on, with our lives. We breathed in and out. We walked the streets. We were here, and they were not.