I have this habit of Googling ‘similar to’ books whenever I finish reading a book that I like. When I did it after The Virgin Suicides, The Lovely Bones was listed on some forum. So I checked it out on Amazon a few months back and let it be, it didn’t seem too inviting. But last month when this terrible crime happened, I don’t know if it was a coincidence or just creepy internet algorithms being creepy, but this book popped up again on my Recommended Suggestions. Maybe if it hadn’t popped up when it did, it wouldn’t have hit me so hard.
A fourteen year old girl Susie watches from heaven, helplessly, as her family crumbles apart, unable to come to terms with her death. Her killer, the quiet neighbour who raped and murdered her is still at large, teasing her father into frustration because he is not able to find enough evidence against him. Unable to handle his obsession with finding the truth, her mother drifts apart and finally leaves the family. Her sister joins hands with her father to nail the killer, driving him away from the town to somewhere else where he continues his killing spree. Her baby brother grows up not quite knowing what happened, but well aware of the larger-than-life presence of his dead sister all around the house. Her almost-boyfriend who was initially the key suspect in her murder gets drawn closer to the weird girl in school whom Susie’s spirit touched as she was leaving the earth.
Years roll by and life goes on, and she continues to watch and watch. And the sinkhole in which her body was thrown into continues to fill up, burying the evidence deeper and deeper.The whole story leaves you with a dull ache as you begin to imagine the what-could-have-been versus the what-is.
And then out of nowhere, but quite expectedly, it takes a twist that made me almost throw the book in disgust. I was fine with the narrator being in heaven and even ok with her touching someone as her spirit left earth. But when she comes back after all those years to ‘enter’ that body and tie up all the loose ends, I got annoyed. It undid all the poignant moments and went all stupid and weird. If you could have done this earlier, Susie, the whole book needn’to have even happened
Then suddenly it switches back into normal mode with a hurried ending where the killer dies an anonymous death. The icicle killing him was supposed to have some kind of reference to the ‘perfect murder’ setting from a high school camp several years ago, but it felt totally out of place and just left me more frustrated with how everything was wrapped up. I feel the book would have been much better if there was no closure, with the killer still at large somewhere and life continuing to go on as it is supposed to.
Once done with the book, I tried to watch the movie, but it was too meh. The book had dragged on for a tad bit too long and I had no patience left in me to watch the movie too. But maybe this is one of those books where the movie was better? I wouldn’t know now.
And then this. I’m always cynical about ‘missing children’ who pop up on social media and never share those pictures. But then several people asked me to share this saying that the child was someone they knew either directly or indirectly. So I shared the tweets and was gearing up to tweet to everyone the next day asking them to delete the pictures once the girl was found. I was sure she would be found. I was hoping for a story the next day with the picture of the smiling child with a couple of police constables. It was such a terrible shock when the worst was confirmed.
There’s nothing that is more terrible than a world where a little child is not safe. Not safe from her neighbour, her teacher, her priest, or even her own father. Her. His. Little boys are as much at risk. This was a very sad and disturbing illustration that I saw today , but it is a reflection of the reality that is hitting us in our faces in a news article every other day.
And then this, my post from long ago about a story I wrote long ago. Still relevant.