Alice Sebold: Voice of a Victim
In a year of little girls lost—little girls kidnapped and killed simply because they were little girls—it was compelling and somehow comforting to hear a voice belonging to one, even a fictional one. The Lovely Bones, told from the viewpoint of a 14-year-old rape and murder victim looking down from heaven, struck a nerve with a society reeling from accounts of 12-year-old Ashley Pond and 13-year-old Miranda Gaddis, Danielle van Dam, 7, Samantha Runnion, 5, and 14-year-old Elizabeth Smart, all snatched and silenced since January. More than 2 million copies of Alice Sebold's first novel are now in print, and it hasn't budged from the New York Times bestseller list since its debut at No. 10 five months ago. "The book is doing its own thing out in the world," says Sebold, 40. "I have lost my ability to explain any of this." Even her publisher, Michael Pietsch of Little, Brown and Company, questioned the potential of such a dark theme. "I thought readers would find it too harsh, too shocking," he says. "But the light she brings to the subject outshines the darkness." Among those who flock to Sebold's readings are people who have lost loved ones through violence. After one book signing in San Francisco, the author noticed a woman who had lost a son conversing with a man whose daughter had died. "The reading ended up bringing these two people together," says Sebold, who connects deeply with the grieving because she survived a brush with death herself. Raped during her freshman year at Syracuse University, she chronicled the experience in a 1999 memoir, Lucky, now a paperback bestseller. Sebold, who lives in Long Beach, Calif., with her husband, author Glen David Gold, 38, opts to focus on what she gained from the crime rather than what she lost. "Out of trauma comes a deeper sense of understanding," she says. "And a deeper sense of love."
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