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Friday, January 27, 2012

Lucky by Alice Sebold: A Book Review with some Questions?

When a book has the following as the first sentence:
"My name was Salmon, like the fish; first name, Susie."
It sure does get your attention, it did mine anyway.

Because from the very first line author Alice Sebold makes it clear the main character, Susi Salmon, is no longer living. In the book, The Lovely Bones, I instantly bonded with 14-year old Susie Salmon because of her innocence and sweetness. I just loved her and as the narrator of the book she was vibrant and descriptive and funny, but she was dead. Early on in the book I knew how she died, a horrible death that still leaves me cold inside, but I found myself wishing I didn’t know she was dead. My reasoning behind this is I wanted the chance to think she could not be dead, so I could have some relief; so I could hope. Maybe they’ll find her, maybe she’ll escape – Nope! I knew she was dead and as the reader, it was heartbreaking to deal with her parents search efforts and belief that maybe they would find her alive.

I was very taken by the book, The Lovely Bones, but truth be told, this is the only book I’ve every thrown away. Once I finished it, I didn’t leave it on my bookshelf like a trophy, I didn’t offer it to family and friends like I do other books I read, I threw it in my outdoor black city garbage can because I never wanted to think about such horrible things again. The book itself was a visual of something I never wanted to remember again.

Although . . .

I will say I was very intrigued by the author, Alice Sebold. Who was she? As a writer, how did she get to such a dark place? Was she herself Susie Salmon; young innocent rape victim?

As a writer myself, I had I to do some research and I found a book I had to read: Lucky, Alice Sebold’s experiences of being raped and how the experience shaped the rest of her life.
Why the title Lucky? Because when she reported the crime to the police, they remarked that a young woman had once been murdered in the same location. Thus, they told her, she was "lucky." Lucky had me hooked from the start. Ms. Sebold so graciously allows the reader into her mind. She doesn’t hide what happened to her, she doesn’t sugar-coat it and she never apologizes for the vulgarity of it. So, I have to ask myself; is this how she was able to write as rape/murder victim Susie Salmon? Do authors need to have some sort of personal experience to be able to write the stories they want to share?  In other words, can I write about something I've never personally experienced myself?

I’ve thought about his more then once. When I read the“Twilight” series, I remember thinking Stephenie Meyer must of have had a pretty healthy childhood. No mention of abuse or trauma. Bella is never looking back at a difficult life. Other then Bella’s parents divorce, we don’t know much about Bella “pre-Edward”. I’m convinced Ms. Meyer is a hopeless romantic who wanted to write a powerful love story and that’s most certainly what she did. Ms. Meyer needed to write, but not for the same reason Ms. Sebold needed to write or maybe the reason doesn't matter because both authors found what they were looking for: an escape.

Still, I think writing is so therapeutic for the author. When I write on my YA novels, I get to explore shady places, reveal deep inner-thoughts and travel places we’ve never been. In fiction, I don’t have to reveal my sources unless I want to. I commend Alice Sebold for her accomplishments in The Lovely Bones and Lucky. Both stories needed be told. Ms. Sebold took a risk, she put her heart on the line in hopes to help other rape victims, and for this, I thank her. She shared a difficult story that took hold of the reader’s heart. So now I know. When I was reading The Lovely Bones, I wasn’t just rooting for fictional character Susie Salmon, I was rooting for the very real Ms. Sebold’s justice as well.


  1. Hey Laura:

    I enjoyed this post. I also read the Lovely Bones but couldn't bring myself to read Lucky.

    I don't know what Alice Sebold is writing these days but I hope she is finding success writing about other topics, too. Sometimes people get pidgeonholed with just one possible identity. And it's frustrating for some kind of abuse to be your only identity, when people are so much more complex than that.

    Do you know Temple Grandin? I think of the same thing with her and her fantastic work that isn't about struggling with autism.

    Peace. Have a great weekend!

  2. What a great and thought provoking post! I read 'The Lovely Bones' before the movie came out. I agree it was very disturbing but a great read. I buy 99% of my books at garage sales and will be on the look out for 'Lucky'.

  3. i loved loved loved the lovely bones, it's actually one of the very few books i've read more than once. i told everyone they need to read it, b/c like you, i loved that it wasn't a mystery book. you weren't wondering the outcome really. my mom's bookclub held off reading it b/c of the topic, but when they finally did, they loved it. i've read lucky, and then she wrote another, called almost moon. it's about an unhealthy mother/daughter relationship, and i found it unsettling and not in a hmm makes you think way. you'll have to keep a look out for it.

  4. I actually did start Almost Moon, but had to throw it away because it was so unsettling.

  5. Great post Laura! I too took on The Lovely Bones hesitantly, but appreciated it. Almost Moon had me so disappointed and disgusted I didn't get it finished. I will have to pick up Lucky - I too wondered how someone could really seem to know the mind of a 14 year old girl so well. Personal experience always seems to be the deepest well of inspiration, but that experience, fortunately, doesn't have to be tragic to be appreciated.

  6. This is stuppiiiidddd