The Lovely Bones, released in 2002, is Alice Sebold’s second published book, and her first published novel. The book sold almost three million copies and was on the New York Times bestseller list for over a year. The novel was translated into over...
Alice Sebold was born on September 6, 1968 in Madison, Wisconsin. She grew up in the suburbs of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and graduated from Great Valley High School in Malvern, PA in 1980. She went on to attend Syracuse University. Near the end of her freshman year, she was raped in a tunnel on her walk home. When she reported the crime to the police, they told her she was “lucky” because another girl had recently been raped and killed in the same tunnel. She would later name her memoir Lucky because of this conversation. A few months after the rape, Sebold saw her rapist on the street and reported him. She testified in court and he got the maximum sentence.
Sebold went home to live with her family for the summer between her freshman and sophomore years. She returned to Syracuse in the fall and continued to study writing there and completed her Bachelor’s degree in 1984. Sebold tried to write her story a number of times, but each time she was unable to produce a narrative that was satisfactory to her. She later realized that she was trying to write a story that encompassed all rape victims, and thus the product was fuzzy and bland.
Although there are quasi-religious themes in her work, Sebold stated in an interview with The Guardian that she is not religious. Her mother was heavily involved in their church up until after Sebold was raped, when the church members’ reacted by saying it must have been Sebold’s fault.
After graduating from Syracuse University, Sebold went to the University of Houston in Texas, where she studied poetry from 1984 – 1985, and then moved to New York City. There she taught English and worked as a research analyst and in other jobs while she continued to write. She spent ten years in New York. During this time, she claims to have become a competent New Yorker. Sebold also said in an interview with The Guardian that she did many things she was not proud of, such as dating men who were heavy drinkers, and three years of recreational use of heroin. Sebold never became addicted and believes she was self-medicating. Her life was transformed by a book called Trauma and Recovery, which helped her realize that she still had not recovered from her rape. She began to go to therapy.
At age 33, Sebold moved to California to pursue a master’s degree in fine arts at the University of California in Irvine. There she met her husband, Glen David Gold. Sebold also began to write Lucky, a memoir of her rape. It started with a ten-page writing assignment for which Sebold wrote forty pages (none of which were used in the finished piece). She had already begun to write The Lovely Bones, but she realized she needed to put it on hold while she wrote her own story. Sebold graduated with an MFA from UCI in 1998. Lucky was released in 1999. Sebold’s second book, The Lovely Bones, was published in 2002 when she was 39 years old. The book sold over a million copies and was critically acclaimed across the United States. Sebold’s second novel, The Almost Moon, was published in 2007 and received mixed reviews.
Sebold lives in California. She told The Guardian that she often gets up at 3 AM to write because she likes to write in the dark. Although the topics of her novels are dark, she signs her books “Viva!” emphasizing her belief that people who have experienced violence can go on living, just as she did.
Study Guides on Works by Alice Sebold
Lucky is a memoir by prominent novelist Alice Sebold, who also wrote The Lovely Bones. The book chronicles her experience as a rape survivor and the tumultuous months that followed where she had to defend herself against her father, her peers, and...