In this last week, when school has been perpetually called off day after day for a grand total of 4 days in a row, I've made a discovery that many others have already made. I may have come late to the party, but at least I made it. On Wednesday morning I woke up at 7:30 am and made coffee and turned on the TV looking for something to occupy the beginning of my day. On one of the movie channels, the movie The Lovely Bones had just began, and since it had been on my list forever, but I hadn't gotten around to seriously watching it, I decided to see what all the fuss was about.
Nearing the end of the film, I was brought to tears. The images on screen were beautiful, the story was tragic, and it awakened something in me that hasn't really stirred in a long time. I marched right across the street in the ice and snow to Hastings to buy the book. When I returned, I began reading, and here I sit almost 3 days later to the hour, having just finished it.
At first I wasn't sure I wanted to review this one. This one would be mine, just for me. My snow day book. But the more I thought about it and the more my friends asked what I thought, I decided that the only way to really understand how I felt about it would be to write it out. I was actually really thankful that I saw the movie before I read the book. Had it been reversed, I may have fallen in line with most people who saw the movie after and hated the movie. There were many things different in the film than in book, but having read it after, I can appreciate all those changes without feeling robbed or without having my expectations fall flat.
As I began the book, it seemed such a strange idea to have a dead girl narrate a story about her own death, her own life, and whatever went on after it was taken from her. I was so interested to see how Alice Sebold was going to bring this story all the way through to the end. Unlike the standard 1st person, 3rd person, 3rd person omniscient, this perspective fell in that category that was more like 1st person omniscient. We were seeing things from Suzie's perspective with her feelings and memories, but she could also see all things, even others' thoughts and feelings. Even what her murderer was up to and all his secrets. In this way, this may have been one of the most uniquely told stories I've ever read.
The writing was so beautiful. This book dealt with some issues that are not easy to deal with and yet she wrote about them with such ease. So eloquent and effortless. So of course, this made it that much easier to read. Especially for me, and English teacher and a wannabe-writer. She masters the craft of writing so well, I can only hope to ever write something half as beautiful one day.
The story itself is a tragedy that, somehow, Sebold is able to portray with hope and eventually joy. The book is hard to read sometimes because it is so heavy. A young girl is murdered. We spend nearly all our time with the people who loved her, grieving. However, in the end, Sebold is able to show that eventually time can help to heal. Pain like this may never go away, but it eventually can be bearable. Running away does not make things go away; you have to face them. And, she shows that sometimes, a tragedy destroys life but can also create and make a person who they are supposed to become if they can rise to it.
This story is not about catching the bad guy. It's about being hit with loss and learning to deal with and accept it. It's about learning to let go and the importance in being able to do so, and then to move on. And also, it's about having faith in something more than what we see. Whether it's in an emotion, heaven, a God, spirits, or faith in your own strength. Strength to not let yourself slip below the rip-tide brought on by unexpected events.
The accepting and moving on themes of this book are what hit me the hardest. I can say that these two things are hardest for me to deal with in my own life. Regardless of if it's a death or just a natural check-point of life showing that we all grow up and change from what we were, it's hard for me to accept it and move past it. I have clung to things in my past for much longer than I should. Most recently, it's been the camaraderie and closeness of me and all my cousins. I haven't wanted to accept that we all grow up, move on, get our own priorities and lives, and slowly slip away from each other. It's what naturally happens when we go from children to adults. However, I've been clinging to what I've always known and had with them, and tried to keep us there.
But accepting and moving on isn't a bad thing. It's a beautiful thing. And new chapters of our lives are beginning. It won't be what I've always known, but it will be something new and just as beautiful. This book pointed me to this issue inside myself. This one and many others. The fact that this can happen is fundamentally why I love literature. If a book can make you find something true in your life, then it has achieved what it exists to do.
With all of that being said, it's no surprise that I truly adored this book. And I love the movie for pushing me into reading this book. I warn anyone who loves the book and wants to see it adapted exactly, you will not enjoy the movie. You'll have to go in it with an open mind and heart, otherwise, you will be disappointed. BUT, although the book and movie are very different, they are both beautiful in their own ways. While Sebold's artistic utensil is her gorgeous metaphors and phrasing, Peter Jackson's is his visual effects and framing. Both achieve the same tone and emotion, just in different ways.
I said at the beginning of this entry that this would help me better understand how I feel about this book, and it has achieved just that. I hope that I can encourage anyone who hasn't read the book yet to give it a look, and perhaps if you haven't seen the movie you can give that a chance, too.