A few years ago I read the book The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold. It was one of the most interesting books I’ve ever read. It is narrated by 14 year old Susie Salmon who is raped and murdered by a pedophile in her neighborhood. Despite the horrific circumstances surrounding Susie’s death, I found the book to be quite gentle. It is set in 1973, a more innocent time in America’s suburbs. A time when people trusted their neighbors. A time when little girls could walk home from school through a cornfield without any harm being done to them.
Susie narrates from heaven the effect her disappearance has on her family. Her body is never found, just her elbow joint. Her fractured family tries to put back the pieces of their lives while they recover from Susie’s murder. Susie is with them in spirit and wishes she could heal their pain. At other times Susie tells the audience what her heaven is like. She asserts that everyone has their one version of heaven. It is a beautiful peaceful place where she gets to do everything she wants and makes friends with other spirits. Susie’s only regret in her life is not being able to kiss the boy she likes. Eventually, Susie’s family moves on past their grief, and Susie moves on into her heaven. Her killer moves on and away from the neighborhood, never to be caught.
After I read this book, I read Sebold’s memoir, Lucky, about her rape in college. A few years later Sebold came to my college and did a book reading. It was so cool to hear her read the first chapter of The Lovely Bones. I had her autograph both of my books. I’ve reached out to a few of my favorite authors via email before (can I tell you how cool Sarah Strohmeyer and Jacqueline Mitchard are?), but I’ve never met one in real life. You can have your famous celebrities, your Paris Hiltons, give me an author any day. Authors are rock stars to me.
Friday night I went to the see the movie version of this book. The movie was a lot different than the book, but I’ve come to accept that about movies and not get to irritated by it. I have to say, Peter Jackson interpreted Susie’s world in a really unique way. However, there were two things that distracted me from the movie. One was Mark Walhberg playing Susie’s father. I just kept seeing Andy Samberg’s impression of him on SNL, (“say Hi to ya mutha for me, alright?”).
The second thing that distracted me was the actress playing Susie looked a lot like my daughter. A lot. Her hair was a different texture and color, and her eyebrows were bushier, but they have the same light blue eyes, pale skin, freckles, long face, shape of their mouths, and their facial expressions. Fast forward 6 years and I think this is what my daughter will look like. Normally the scary parts (there are two scenes that are really heart-thumping) of this movie would have gotten my heart pumping, but seeing this girl who looks like my daughter just hit me on a different level. I wanted to race home and just hug her. In fact, I got home and immediately went to her bedroom, checked on her sleeping, and kissed her on her forehead. I couldn’t even allow myself to go to the place of empathy needed to feel the parents in the movie’s pain.
I don’t know if I can see the movie again. It would just be too traumatizing a second time considering the how much Saiorse Ronan looks like my daughter in this movie. I will probably read the book again, it’s been a couple of years, just so that I can replace the images in my head with people that look nothing like my family members. Those of you who know my daughter, you can see from the picture below what I’m talking about.
Saiorse Ronan from “The Lovely Bones”