What are some common themes/topics in Lucky and The Lovely Bones?
In both Lucky, Alice Sebold's memoir of her own experience with rape as a college student, and The Lovely Bones, Sebold's novel about 14-year-old murder victim Susie Salmon, both young women lose their innocence at the hands of a violent criminal. In Lucky, Sebold explains that her rapist took her virginity from her, which means that her first so-called "real" sexual experience took place during this assault; Susie's killer, Mr. Harvey, steals Susie's youth and her future when he murders her, which may be symbolic of Sebold's personal experience with the death of her own innocence as a result of the rape.
As well, both books contain a thread of humor that seems inappropriate for the subject matter, but actually, this juxtaposition actually enhances the gravity of the subject matter, making the events described more poignant for the reader. In Lucky, Sebold is unsentimental and straightforward about her experience, and even the book title is weighted with irony; Sebold was told by a policeman that she was "lucky" that all she endured was a rape, as the tunnel in which she had been attacked was where a less lucky young woman was murdered.
In The Lovely Bones, Susie looks down from heaven and describes what happens in the lives of her family as they continue to live without her; when Susie sees important events happen, like her sister's first kiss, she reacts like a typical teenager, complaining that her sister never would have told her about the kiss had she still been alive. This combination of humor and realism combine to leave the reader with a strong memory of the emotional experience of reading both books.
The most obvious comparison point between the two books is the effect of rape/violent crime upon not only its victims but also upon the loved ones of those victims. In Lucky, Sebold discusses her own violent rape when she was a college student and her struggle to find some sense of identity and normalcy afterwards. During her struggle, she has a great deal of difficulty relating to her loved ones or articulating what happened to her. Similarly, Susie's spirit cannot rest until her family can cope with her disappearance/murder. Although she is a fictional character, her soul's struggle is not unlike Sebold's own battle to resurrect herself after she is attacked.
One more comparison point is the weightiness of both works. While Lovely Bones is fictional, it is still a difficult read because of the near-destruction of Susie's family after her death. Lucky, because of its gritty reality and the reader's knowledge that it is not fictional, leaves an even stronger heavy impression. After I read Lucky for the first time, I appreciated the surreal parts of Bones even more and felt emotionally drained because I wanted a more hopeful perspective for the author.
A similar theme in both works is redemption. In Sebold's Lucky, the author explores what happened to her in real life after her rape. She must struggle with coming to terms with the brutality of the rape, both physically and emotionally, and adjusting to her life in a world she feels she no longer knows.
In The Lovely Bones, Sebold's heroine is raped as she was in reality but is also murdered after the rape. Susie Salmon, the fictional heroine, watches from heaven as her family falls apart after her disappearance and later discovers her murder. Susie also longs to experience events in life that she has missed because of her death.
In both works, nonfiction and fiction, the girls must learn to cope with their respective situations and heal if they are to move on from their terrible ordeals. In fact, at the end of Lucky, Sebold states: "But it is later now, and I live in a world where the two truths coexist; where both hell and hope lie in the palm of my hand." It is in reconciling what happened to them that both girls are able to find hope and redemption.