Before publication, The Lovely Bones was promoted with a strong focus on its author and her life experiences. When she was 18 and a first-year student at Syracuse University, Sebold was attacked and raped on the university campus. When she reported the rape to the police, Sebold was told she was ‘lucky’ to be alive, as another young woman had been murdered in the same place. Later, Sebold recognised the man who attacked her on the street and he was caught, tried and convicted of her rape.
Sebold subsequently used Lucky as the ironic title of her autobiographical account of the attack and its aftermath, in which she describes her family’s struggle to understand and accept her ordeal and her own years of self-destructive behaviour, including drug addiction. However, Sebold’s use of Lucky as her title is only partly ironic, as fewer than one per cent of rapes in the USA lead to convictions. One reading of The Lovely Bones is as a fictional rewriting of Lucky, with Sebold taking control of the narrative through the voice of Susie, culminating in a redemptive and healing conclusion that contrasts powerfully with Sebold’s own messy and traumatic life experiences.
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