Well, we’ve had a pretty good discussion in another thread about Philip Pullman’s **His Dark Materials ** trilogy. Since a new week is upon us, so I thought I’d bring up a new book to discuss:http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0316666343/sr=8-3/qid=1153693534/ref=pd_bbs_3/104-7425413-0866301?ie=UTF8 by Alice Sebold.
For those of you who haven’t read it, Bones tells the story of Suse Salmon, a 14-year-old girl who is murdered on December 6, 1973. (I’m not spoilering that because the fact of her murder is the first thing revealed in Chapter 1.) Susie is only alive for the first few pages of the book; for the bulk of the story she is in a very imperfect Heaven, looking down on those she loves: her mother, her father, her one-year-younger sister Lindsey, her ten-years-younger brother Buckley, her grandmother, and the only boy she’s ever kissed, Ray. In addition she watches the lives of Ruth, whose body her ghost passed through as it made the transition from Earth to Heaven. Finally she watches Detective Federman, the police officer investigating her murder, and Mr. Harvey, the neighbor who rapes and kills her. (Again I’m not spoiler-spacing things you can’t avoid finding out in the first chapter or on the dust jacket.)
It took me a long time to get into this book. Primarily that was because the very quick synopsis I read in the newspaper (it was on the best-seller list for months) made it sound like an inspirational work, and those, in general, tend to suck eggs. (There’s probably a thousand Mitch Alboms and Tim LaHayes for every C. S. Lewis & Madeleine L’Engle.) Partly it was because the book itself was slow-going. But I something kept drawing me back to the story: something alluring, almost hypnotic, in the tale of grief and healing, hate and love, that Sebold was telling. None of the characters – not even Mr. Harvey – were entirely evil or repulsive; none of the characters – not even the grieving parents – were entirely good or wise.
As I said above, it took me a while to get through the book – sort of. I spent a year getting through the first 50 pages, but I devoured the next two hundred in a day.
Anyway, that’s me. I hope to hear from more of you. Here’s a few points for discussion, which I will spoiler-space:
Overall, how convincing did you find the device of having Suse act as omniscient narrator? Did you believe she was giving an accurate report of the thoughts & feelings of the living characters, or were you dubious of her accuracy?
Were you satisfied with the manner of Mr. Harvey’s death at the end of the book? Did it suit your sense of justice? Do you believe Susie had anything to do with it, or is that just wishful thinking?
Why do you think Susie’s Heaven is so imperfect? (I have my own thoughts, but I’ll wait to see if anyone else is interested before I put my two cents in.) Is the unsatisfying nature of her Heaven due to its own nature, or Susie’s perceptions?
Does Mrs. Salmon remain sympathetic despite her affair with Detective Fenerman? Does Mr. Salmon remain sympathetic despite his appropriating Susie’s memory all to himself (if you feel he did that)?
Do your own experiences with grief dovetail with those of the characters in this story?
How do you think Lindsey’s relationship with Samuel is affected by her grief for her sister? Were you offended or vexed by her early loss of her virginity to him (she was only 14, just Susie’s age, when they first made love)?
Do you think more should have been done to develop Buckley’s character? Do you think his choice of using Susie’s old clothes in his garden was arbitrary or not?
Those are the thoughts that occur to me now. Feel free to answer as few or as many as you wish, and to add your own.