I hope you’ll be patient with me, as this is my first foray into the nebulous world of blogging. I tend toward the Luddite end of the technology spectrum (and am married to a science guy who is currently getting a doctorate in engineering!), so I’ve shied away from anything more demanding than posting reviews on to Amazon.com.
I’m delighted to be here for the next couple of weeks as your guest blogger. Wish I could say that I’ve stored up marvelous philosophical and theological insights to share, but my spiritual journey is primarily one of questions, not answers. So I think that I will primarily be asking some, and also telling you about what I’m reading. My day job is in publishing, and I tend to be a book-a-day addict. (Though I should hasten to say that not all of the books I read are worth commenting on at all. For my job, I have to read a lot of derivative self-help schlock in addition to the Good Stuff.)
In the realm of good reading, though, this weekend I tore through Alice Sebold’s haunting novel THE LOVELY BONES. We are discussing it on Wednesday in my book club, a women’s group that’s about half LDS. I’m very interested to hear what the other women thought of it, and any of you if you’ve read it. As a mother, I found the book so viscerally disturbing that I was actually weeping after chapter 2. (This prompted my husband to ask when we’re planning to read a happy book for Book Club, as our last selection was MYSTIC RIVER, which also involved the murder of a young woman and her family’s wrenching journey through grief.)
In publishing, people are always looking for “fresh voices,” and it’s incredibly rare that we find them. Most NF books are rehearsals of what other people have said, perhaps with a slightly different spin or lens. (This is true of my own books as well as the ones I read. As Qoheleth put it, of the making of books there is no end, and there is nothing new under the sun.) With fiction, we often see plots that echo other plots from novels and especially films, and narration that fails to evoke character, theme, and setting. THE LOVELY BONES took me by surprise for its unique voice and perspective. It’s told from the POV of a 14-year-old murder victim who has just died and watches as her family deals with shock, falls apart, and then slowly coalesces again into new relationships, which turn out to be stronger simply for the knowledge of how tenuous they are.
I was fascinated by the author’s view of heaven. The main character, Susie, begins her heavenly journey in a place that looks very much like what she left, and she’s intimately involved in watching events on Earth. Her heaven even looks like the high school that she dreamed of attending but never got the chance to, where people read VOGUE and GLAMOUR all day and the women are very beautiful. As time passes (eight years’ worth on earth), she is able to let go of her family and her death enough to move on to the next phase of heaven, which the book calls the “wide wide heaven” and is left marvelously ambiguous.
More tomorrow —