The Lovely Bones.By Alice Sebold. Little, Brown, 288 pp., $21.95.
In the most powerful opening chapter of any novel I have read, 14-year-old Susie Salmon narrates the hellish scene of her own brutal rape and murder—from heaven. There are many stories about people witnessing their own funeral, but this bold move transcends such pedestrian plot tricks. It allows the author to document the terrible consequences of human depravity from the heights of divine perfection, and the tension between the two is almost unbearable. Remarkably, when the reader is done, it seems obvious that, far from being a contrived resurrection of the old-fashioned omniscient-narrator point of view, this unique perspective is the only way to fully comprehend such an intolerable tragedy.