The Lovely Bones

The Lovely Bones


After being brutally murdered, 14-year-old Susie Salmon (Saoirse Ronan) watches from heaven over her grief-stricken family (Mark Wahlberg, Rachel Weisz) -- and her killer (Stanley Tucci). As she observes their daily lives, she must balance her thirst...

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After being brutally murdered, 14-year-old Susie Salmon (Saoirse Ronan) watches from heaven over her grief-stricken family (Mark Wahlberg, Rachel Weisz) -- and her killer (Stanley Tucci). As she observes their daily lives, she must balance her thirst for revenge with her desire for her family to heal.

The Lovely Bones is a 2002 novel by American writer Alice Sebold. It is the story of a teenage girl who, after being raped and murdered, watches from her personal Heaven as her family and friends struggle to move on with their lives while she comes to terms with her own death. The novel received critical praise and became an instant bestseller. A film adaptation, directed by Peter Jackson, who personally purchased the rights, was released in 2009.

Alice Sebold (born September 6, 1963) is an American writer. She has published three books: Lucky (1999), The Lovely Bones (2002), and The Almost Moon (2007).


Sebold won the American Booksellers Association Book of the Year Award for Adult Fiction in 2003 The Lovely Bones and the Bram Stoker Award for First Novel in 2002. Sebold is an alumna of the Ragdale Foundation

The novel's title is taken from a quotation at the story's conclusion, when Susie ponders her friends' and family's newfound strength after her death:


    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. And I began to see things in a way that let me hold the world without me in it. The events my death brought were merely the bones of a body that would become whole at some unpredictable time in the future. The price of what I came to see as this miraculous body had been my life.


Alice Sebold in 2007


Critics in the US were generally positive; many noted that the story had more promise than the idea of a brutally murdered teenage girl going to heaven, and following her family and friends as they get on with their lives would have suggested. "This is a high-wire act for a first novelist, and Alice Sebold maintains almost perfect balance", wrote Katherine Bouton in The New York Times Book Review.


Ali Smith of The Guardian wrote that The Lovely Bones "is a determined reiteration of innocence, a teeth-gritted celebration of something not dismembered or shattered at all, but continuous: the notion of the American family unit, dysfunctional, yes, but pure and good nonetheless." The Observer's Philip Hensher considers that the novel was "very readable" but "ultimately it seems like a slick, overpoweringly saccharine and unfeeling exercise in sentiment and whimsy".


Hensher notes too that "It's a very God-free heaven, with no suggestion that anyone has been judged, or found wanting". However, Sebold has stated that the book is not intended to be religious, "but if people want to take things and interpret them, then I can't do anything about that. It is a book that has faith and hope and giant universal themes in it, but it's not meant to be, 'This is the way you should look at the afterlife'".

Film adaptation

Main article: The Lovely Bones (film)


Director Peter Jackson secured the book's film rights. In a 2005 interview, he stated the reader has "an experience when you read the book that is unlike any other. I don't want the tone or the mood to be different or lost in the film." In the same interview, regarding Susie's heaven, he said the movie version would endeavor to make it appear "somehow ethereal and emotional, but it can't be hokey". The film stars Saoirse Ronan as Susie Salmon, Mark Wahlberg as Jack Salmon, Stanley Tucci as George Harvey, Rachel Weisz as Abigail Salmon, Susan Sarandon as Susie's Grandmother Lynn, and Rose McIver as Lindsey Salmon.


The film opened to a limited release in three U.S. theaters on December 11, 2009, and received international and wide release on January 15, 2010. It met with mixed reviews, but nonetheless garnered an Academy Award nomination for Best Supporting Actor (Tucci).

Stage adaptation

Main article: The Lovely Bones (play)


A stage adaptation of the novel, adapted by Bryony Lavery and directed by Melly Still, made its world premiere at the Royal & Derngate, Northampton on 1 September 2018 before touring to Everyman Theatre, Liverpool, Northern Stage, Birmingham Repertory Theatre and New Wolsey Theatre.




HSebold's first novel—after her memoir, Lucky—is a small but far from minor miracle. Sebold has taken a grim, media-exploited subject and fashioned from it a story that is both tragic and full of light and grace. The novel begins swiftly. In the second sentence, Sebold's narrator, Susie Salmon, announces, "I was fourteen when I was murdered on December 6, 1973." Susie is taking a shortcut through a cornfield when a neighbor lures her to his hideaway. The description of the crime is chilling, but never vulgar, and Sebold maintains this delicate balance between homely and horrid as she depicts the progress of grief for Susie's family and friends. She captures the odd alliances forged and the relationships ruined: the shattered father who buries his sadness trying to gather evidence, the mother who escapes "her ruined heart, in merciful adultery." At the same time, Sebold brings to life an entire suburban community, from the mortician's son to the handsome biker dropout who quietly helps investigate Susie's murder. Much as this novel is about "the lovely bones" growing around Susie's absence, it is also full of suspense and written in lithe, resilient prose that by itself delights. Sebold's most dazzling stroke, among many bold ones, is to narrate the story from Susie's heaven (a place where wishing is having), providing the warmth of a first-person narration and the freedom of an omniscient one. It might be this that gives Sebold's novel its special flavor, for in Susie's every observation and memory—of the smell of skunk or the touch of spider webs—is the reminder that life is sweet and funny and surprising,. Agent, Henry Dunow. (July 3)


Forecast:Sebold's memoir, Lucky, was the account of her rape in 1981, at Syracuse University. It is, of course, impossible to read The Lovely Bones without considering the memoir, but the novel moves Sebold effortlessly into literary territory. A long list of writers—including Michael Chabon and Jonathan Franzen—blurb The Lovely Bones, and booksellers should expect the novel to move quickly; the early buzz has been considerable. Foreign rights have been sold in England, France, Germany, Holland, Italy, Japan, Norway, Spain and Sweden, with film rights to Film Four.

Reviewed on: 06/17/2002

Release date: 07/01/2002

Genre: Fiction

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