The Lovely Bones

After giving three talks in three days in California, which were great fun and very stimulating, I thought I was entitled to a little down time. So I bought a novel for my four hour flight from San Francisco to Cincinnati: The Lovely Bones, by Alice Sebold. But reading it wasn't exactly "down time." It's got an original, and unsettling, plot: a young teenage girl is brutally murdered, and watches over her family--and her killer--from "her heaven." It's just been made into a movie.I liked the book --but found the voice of the protagonist not really to be the voice of a fourteen year old girl, but of an adult woman. It was set in 1973, so clearly the young girl grew up--and grew up, it seems, in "her heaven."--apart from a brief jaunt back on earth. What she needed to deal with, in part, was the way in which she was wrenched from earth--and her entirely just anger at it. She needed, somehow, to let go, to move into the "wide, wide heaven."The book has been criticized by some for not having God in it. I don't know if there's a God or not in the novel-the protagonist could be in some sort of antechamber, even in the wide, wide, heaven. Very few books, it seem to me, deal with the shape of the afterlife--I give the author credit for that. She raises, without fully grappling with, the interesting questions of embodiment after death and the possibility of growth and maturation even in the next life.Anyone else read it?

Cathleen Kaveny is the Darald and Juliet Libby Professor in the Theology Department and Law School at Boston College.

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