Tuesday, December 6, 2016

First Lines Second Thoughts — Alice Sebold's The Lovely Bones


First Lines Second Thoughts is a look at the first lines of well known literary works. On second thought, do these opening words stand alone as poetry? Today, on December 6, we look at the opening lines of Alice Sebold's debut novel, The Lovely Bones.

My name was Salmon,
like the fish,
first name, Susie.
I was fourteen years old
when I was murdered
on December 6th 1973.
In newspaper photos of
missing girls from the seventies,
most looked like me:
white girls with mousy brown hair.
This was before kids of all races and genders
started appearing in milk cartons or in the Daily Mail.
It was still back when people believed things like that didn't happen.


— Alice Sebold


The Lovely Bones is told from the perspective of the dead Susie looking down from above as her family and friends come to terms with her murder. The title of Alice Sebold's 2002 bestseller comes from an equally poetic passage at the conclusion of the book:


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.

The Lovely Bones has been translated into 45 languages and adapted for the screen in 2009 and is being adapted for the stage in 2017.