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As Alice Sebold relates in her chilling memoir Lucky, she was considered fortunate for surviving a violent, devastating rape in her freshman year at Syracuse University. The woman before her had not been so "lucky": She was murdered and dismembered.
The shadow of this fact survives in Sebold's acclaimed novel The Lovely Bones, which is narrated by another not-so-lucky victim from beyond the grave. It's such a maudlin premise that the book shouldn't have been successful—in fact, Sebold's editor has told the author that the manuscript never would have been bought if she had been told what it was about before reading it.
But in her ability to convey the brutal details of crime and its aftermath—both the imagined instance and the real—Sebold is a gripping writer. She is straightforward, but not simply a reporter; in The Lovely Bones, she maintains with sympathy and humor the voice of a 14-year-old who continues, from heaven, to be engaged with life on earth. Without pandering or overwriting, Sebold can elicit tears with the simple but painfully true expression of a character's thought or wish.
• Part of the aftermath of Sebold's traumatic rape in college was a long period of self-abuse, including heroin addiction. After a hard trial in New York trying (and failing) to get published, Sebold decided to leave the city and ultimately applied to grad school at Irvine. ''I couldn't handle the rejection and the failure anymore...and the 'almost' of it all,'' she told Entertainment Weekly. ''Everybody from New York has their almost-but-not-quite story, and I just felt like I don't want to be walking around on the planet trotting out mine.''
• Sebold says that her continued failures ended up creating a good mindset for her writing. "After a while, you don't think what can't be done and what can be done, because no one's going to care anyway," she said in an Associated Press interview. "You just go and have fun in your room, which is what, to me, art should be about anyway." (Author bio from Barnes and Noble.)
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