Grief, Loss, Death & Dying

 email page    print page

All Topic Reviews
A Brief History of DeathA Commonsense Book of DeathA Message from JakieAfter SuicideAfter You'd GoneAfterwardsAliveAll Alone in the UniverseAll Rivers Flow to the SeaAll Seasons PassAnd a Time to DieAt the End of WordsBefore and After LossBeing with DyingBequest and BetrayalBereftBeyond GoodbyeBeyond the Good DeathBodies in Motion and at RestCatalystComfortConfessions of a Grieving ChristianContemplative AgingCoping With TraumaCrispinDarwin's WormsDeathDeath and CompassionDeath BenefitsDeath in the ClassroomDeath Is That Man Taking NamesDeath of a ParentDeath's DoorDefining the Beginning and End of LifeDon't Go Where I Can't FollowDriving My FatherDying in the Twenty-First CenturyElegy for IrisErasing DeathEthical WillsEthics at the End of LifeEvenings at FiveExtreme MeasuresFacing Death: Elisabeth Kubler-RossFatal AttachmentsFinishing Our StoryFortress of My YouthGhost at the WindowGoing Through Hell Without Help From AboveGood GriefGoodbye RuneGraceful ExitsGrave MattersGrieving for ChildrenHealing ConversationsHello from Heaven!History of SuicideHonoring GriefHonoring the Dead and Facing DeathHow We GrieveHuman Dignity and Assisted DeathI Remain in DarknessI Wasn't Ready to Say GoodbyeIn the Wake of SuicideIt Takes a Worried ManLayoverLearning to FallLiberating LossesLife after LossLiving and Dying WellLosing Mum and PupLossLost in the ForestLove Is a Mix TapeLove That DogMaking Sense of SuicideMars and Venus - Starting Over.Michael Rosen's Sad BookMortal DilemmasNight Falls FastNobody's Child AnymoreOlive's OceanOn Life After DeathOne Last Hug Before I GoOne More WednesdayParting CompanyPeaceful Death, Joyful RebirthR.I.P.Reason's GriefRemembering GeorgySaying It Out LoudSeeing the CrabShooterSome Thing BlackSpeak to MeStandbyStayStill HereSuicidal ThoughtsSurviving HitlerThe Art of LosingThe AwakeningThe Boy on the Green BicycleThe Bright HourThe Cambridge Companion to Life and DeathThe Case of Terri SchiavoThe Color of AbsenceThe Dead Fathers ClubThe Death of a ChildThe DisappearanceThe End-of-Life HandbookThe Forgotten MournersThe Healing Journey Through GriefThe Loss of Self: A Family Resource for the Care of Alzheimer's Disease and Related DisordersThe Lovely BonesThe Measure of Our DaysThe Mercy PapersThe MiracleThe Modern Art of DyingThe Other Side of SadnessThe Oxford Handbook of Philosophy of DeathThe ScarThe TravelersThe Trick Is to Keep BreathingThe Truth About GriefThe UndertakingThe Way of TransitionThe Work of MourningTo Die WellTuesdays with MorrieUnderstanding GriefWakeWhat Dying People WantWhen Breath Becomes AirWitWrinklesYoung@Heart

Related Topics
The Lovely BonesReview - The Lovely Bones
A Novel
by Alice Sebold
Little Brown, 2002
Review by Christian Perring, Ph.D.
Dec 28th 2002 (Volume 6, Issue 52)

The Lovely Bones starts out with its narrator’s rape and murder.  Susie Salmon was fourteen years old when a man from her neighborhood, Mr. Harvey, ended her life.  The crime is described without too much unpleasant detail.  She describes the event as she does the following days, months and years, with compassion and even a hint of wry humor.  Susie looks at the world from her place in heaven, and even comes down to earth to be with her family and friends as they react to her disappearance.  She is oddly dispassionate and rarely displays any anger or even sorrow.  She not only knows what the living say and do, but also what they think and feel, even what they dream.  In some ways, she is an all-knowing narrator, but there are some things she does not want to see.  When her father holds her crying mother, and gently kisses her, Susie looks away.  This story is not just about the grief of those left behind, but also about Susie’s coming to terms with her loss of life.  While the book deals with serial murder and even ghosts and has some thematic overlap with The Sixth Sense, it is in no way a horror story. 

If anything, what is disturbing about Sebold’s novel is Susie’s calm as she witnesses the anguish of her family.  When her younger sister Lindsey is called into the Principal’s office at school, he offers her a banal platitude, saying, “I’m sorry for your loss.”  Lindsey refuses to show any emotion in response.  Susie comments,

“Make her laugh,” I wanted to say to him.  “Bring her to a Marx Brothers movie, sit on a fart cushion, show her the boxers you have on with little devils eating hot dogs on them!”  All I could do was talk, but no one on Earth could hear me.

It’s a strange comment for Susie to make—surely she does not really think that the Principal really should be trying to cheer her sister up.  It’s as if she does not appreciate the gravity of the situation.  She wishes her family could just go on as before, but she is powerless to help them.  She does admit that “part of me wished swift vengeance” but at the same time she is resigned that her father, who suspects Mr. Harvey, will not chase his daughter’s murderer and kill him.  On only a few occasions does Susie cry once she is in heaven, even though she sees all that her family suffers, and how almost every moment of their lives is filled with her loss. 

It comes as a surprise that Susie’s observation of her family and friends does not come to an end after a few months or even after a year.  She keeps hanging around the living, unable to let go, as her family holds on to her memory.  She watches her friends and her younger sister and brother grow up, and she takes pride in their achievements.  There is plenty to do in Heaven, and she does is happy to be reunited with her grandfather, and she even makes some new friends.  But she spends most of her time watching those on Earth, even people who she didn’t really know when she was living.  Maybe she needs to come to resolution about her murder, to see justice done.  Mr. Harvey is a suspect, yet he moves to other places and carries on his killing with no repercussions.  Though Susie’s family finds evidence that confirms their suspicions about him, it is not enough to get him arrested.  Susie’s father gets a reputation as having a crackpot theory and even himself being a nutcase.  The pressure on the family becomes too much, leading to a painful split.  Nevertheless, after several years have passed, there is a resolution of sorts, in which Susie is at last able to come to terms with her loss of life and her family learns to move beyond their loss. 

The central idea behind The Lovely Bones is very powerful—the rape and murder of a girl provides weight to this story, and the narration by the victim makes it particularly original.  Yet the strength of the book is not in its depiction of grief and recovery or any great insight into the loss of a child.  (Memoirs of actual loss tend to convey this far more vividly.)  Of course, a feeling of loss and sorrow runs throughout the story, but what makes the book memorable is Sebold’s unusual perspective, the subtlety of her writing, and the thought that the dead need to let go of the living just as the living need to recover from their losses. 


Link:  Susan Brison reviews Alice Sebold’s memoir Lucky.


Christian Perring, Ph.D., is Chair of the Philosophy Department at Dowling College, Long Island. He is editor of Metapsychology Online Review. His main research is on philosophical issues in psychiatry. He is especially interested in exploring how philosophers can play a greater role in public life, and he is keen to help foster communication between philosophers, mental health professionals, and the general public.


Welcome to Metapsychology.

Note that Metapsychology will be moving to a new server in January 2020. We will not put up new reviews during the transition. We thank you for your support and look forward to coming back with a revised format.

We feature over 8300 in-depth reviews of a wide range of books and DVDs written by our reviewers from many backgrounds and perspectives. We update our front page weekly and add more than twenty new reviews each month. Our editor is Christian Perring, PhD. To contact him, use one of the forms available here.

Metapsychology Online reviewers normally receive gratis review copies of the items they review.
Metapsychology Online receives a commission from for purchases through this site, which helps us send review copies to reviewers. Please support us by making your purchases through our Amazon links. We thank you for your support!

Join our Google Group!

Interested in becoming a book reviewer for Metapsychology? To apply, write to our editor.

Metapsychology Online Reviews

Promote your Page too

Metapsychology Online Reviews
ISSN 1931-5716