Introduction & Overview of The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold

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The Lovely Bones Summary & Study Guide Description

The Lovely Bones Summary & Study Guide includes comprehensive information and analysis to help you understand the book. This study guide contains the following sections:

This detailed literature summary also contains Further Reading and a Free Quiz on The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold.

In her first novel, The Lovely Bones (2002), Alice Sebold delves into the horror and trauma resulting from by the rape and murder of a young girl. The novel arose from Sebold's own experience with violence—her rape as an eighteen-year-old college freshman. Similar to her 1999 memoir, Lucky, which details her own rape, its psychological aftermath, and the arrest, trial, and conviction of the rapist, The Lovely Bones refuses to sanitize sexual violence. Yet the novel does not sensationalize violence either; instead, it offers the ordinariness of it. Both the setting in suburban Philadelphia, and the time period of the early 1970s, underscore Sebold's belief that no one is immune from violence; it touches everyone. More importantly, the story of Susie Salmon and her family exposes the way in which society marginalizes the victims of violence. The Lovely Bones becomes a study of the effects of violence, in this case rape and murder, not only on the victim, but on her family, friends, and community.

The Lovely Bones does not focus on evil; it does not attempt to make sense of bad people or bad acts. Instead the novel investigates issues of loss and grief, life and death, identity and self, remembrance and forgetting, womanhood and motherhood, coming of age and rites of passage, and heaven and earth. The readers watch with Susie as her father, mother, sister, brother, and grandmother, as well as her middle school friends, her killer, and the lead detective on the case, confront similar issues in their attempts to understand their grief. While the novel raises many questions, it does not, in fact, answer all of them. Sebold examines traditional views, such as those about heaven, sexuality, and the place of women in American society, while simultaneously challenging those views.

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