There was a time when I was scared stiff of reading Franz Kafka’s The Metamorphosis. I always imagined myself as the sister in the story who ignored the changes in her brother and in the end, was invisible to her. It pained me to see family members brush his existence away, the way sometimes I imagined myself doing. There’s nothing like living with guilt every single day. Even if you know it was something you cannot help but do it anyway; even if you know that given a chance you would apologise every single day and try to make up for it, take it back and wish it all away – but never did I imagine Alice Sebold’s The Lovely Bones affecting me the way The Metamorphosis did.
Yes, the story is about a murdered child, but what I didn’t realise to the fullest, was the narrator. The dead child or rather the freshly minted spirit of a fourteen-year-old girl. She peers down from heaven, watching and observing her family and friends, often living life through them and with them. As I progressed through the story, it dawned on me how even my brother may be up somewhere, looking down upon us, observing us, crying with us and even celebrating the little nuggets of happiness that escape through. I believe that sometimes, if not all, he sits with our father when he’s home alone during the day, my father who nursed him closely during his illness, and who now doesn’t even have the strength to support himself and walk easily.
I imagine him flitting around our mother, whom he loves the most. Swooshing in during her trip in the school bus, zooming around in her class and being that invisible source of strength and energy she needs to get through at an age past retirement, yet working full time, both at school and home.
It makes me think that he smiles at me from the picture that I’ve tacked up on my office board, silently cheering me on at work, whispering words of advice and pushing me to become a better self.
What is the mark of a great book if it does not push you to think? Is it better if it slowly creeps up on you and you suddenly find yourself in a rush of emotions and thoughts. You wonder how the dead are living through the people who touched them, both in a good and bad way, and you wonder how the living are often dead, moving aimlessly from one day to the next with little to no consequence, wondering when death will come knocking.
I had seen the movie years back in college, but it didn’t strike me the way the book did these last few days. Of course, my life has turned around in the past few years, but then again, I suppose a book has a way of reaching out to its readers in a more forceful way than movies can. The spirit of the girl from the beyond the dead is the narrator and she reaches out to the reader. Her voice, is soothing, or so I imagine, and before I knew it, I got swept into her story. With every happiness, my heart whooped with joy and with every failure and wrongdoing, I realised I was just as helpless as the dear narrator. I matched the rhythm and pace of the story, hoping for Susie to get justice, but some things don’t always happen the way you wish it to be. But karma is a bitch, and I strongly believe that ‘what goes around, comes around’. While time may be a healer, fate never forgets anyone’s address.
Among the many characters, I emphathised with Jack Salmon the most. He always spoke to his eldest child Susie, and the only one who kept after the killer. He loses his wife in the process, but preserving the memory of his daughter takes precedence. Ruth, Susie’s friend and Lindsey, Susie’s younger sister, are two other characters who have left me stunned. Their growth in the story and how they become stronger and better able to care for themselves and others, left me overwhelmed.
As always, I shall be leaving you with a poignant quote from the book, one that ties the story and the title together, one that touches my soul at a vulnerable spot and one that must mean something to everyone, as death often impacts people in different ways.
“These were the lovely bones that had grown around my absence: the connections—sometimes tenuous, sometimes made at great cost, but often magnificent—that happened after I was gone. And I began to see things in a way that let me hold the world without me in it. The events my death brought were merely the bones of a body that would become whole at some unpredictable time in the future. The price of what I came to see as this miraculous body had been my life.”