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Monday, June 13, 2011

The Lovely Bones – Heroes

The Lovely BonesThe Lovely Bones is one of many books I picked up a couple of years ago intending to read soon, but then put it aside when other books caught my eye. I ended up seeing the movie version first, which was probably best because I generally don’t like the movie after I’ve read the book. But when I see the movie first, I’m usually neutral on which one is better.

The Lovely Bones is the first novel I’ve picked up by Alice Sebold, so I had no frame of reference when I started reading it recently. As you probably know, the novel is told from the point of view of a 14-year-old girl named Susie who is brutally murdered. She can see and hear her family, friends and killer from heaven. It's an interesting concept, but the author looses me at times because Susie’s observations seem more like an adult’s than those of a 14-year-old girl. So it doesn't really work for me. For example:
Late at night the air above hospitals and senior citizen homes was often thick and fast with souls. Holly and I watched sometimes on the nights when sleep was lost to us. We came to realize how these deaths seemed choreographed from somewhere far away. Not our heaven. And so we began to suspect that there was a place more all-encompassing than we were.
To me, this sounds more like the point of view of a 38-year-old.

But one scene gets it right, even though it has a couple of awkwardly worded sentences, and it’s the one I want to focus on in this post. Susie is watching from heaven as her dad tries to carry her brother, Buckley, piggyback in their yard – the way he used to before Susie’s death and before he had knee surgery. And in the most ordinary of circumstances, she ends up seeing her dad as a hero for his effort.
So, awkwardly, in the beautiful isolation of the yard, where if my father fell only a boy and a dog who loved him would see, the two of them worked together to make what they both wanted – this return to father/son normalcy – happen. When Buckley stood on the iron chair – “Now scoot up my back,” my father said, stooping forward, “and grab on to my shoulders,” not knowing if he’d have the strength to lift him up from there – I crossed my fingers hard in heaven and held my breath. In the cornfield, yes, [that’s where she was murdered – and I guess Susie is saying her dad’s head is still there in the cornfield?] but, in this moment, repairing the most basic fabric of their previous day-to-day lives, challenging his injury to take a moment like this back, my father became my hero.
Heroes come in a lot of varieties – from people who risk their lives for people they don’t know to people who choose professions or volunteer positions to better their communities. And sometimes a hero can be found in the smallest of actions – like a father running the risk of embarrassment, or worse, just to make his son feel the special bond they used to share during piggyback sessions in the backyard.


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