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 bestseller 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 proved herself a gripping writer. In a style that is straightforward but more than reportorial, she projected in The Lovely Bones the pitch-perfect voice of a dead 14-year-old girl who, from her vantage point in heaven, remains engaged with life on earth. The book was a sensation and appeared on most "best books" lists for 2002.
Five years later, Sebold produced The Almost Moon, the chilling tale of a woman driven by circumstances to commit an unspeakable act. The novel begins with one of the most arresting first lines in recent memory: "When all is said and done, killing my mother came easily."