Lovely Bones’s true story — The true crimes behind the film

Lovely Bones

Susie Salmon, the main character and narrator of The Lovely Bones, faces a tough choice: Accept her death and move to heaven, or remain in purgatory and help identify the man who raped and murdered her. Salmon witnesses her family try and fail to come to terms with the tragedy of her passing. 

She’s torn between letting her family heal and identifying a heartless criminal before he strikes again. The Lovely Bones’ depiction of the pain and sorrow that linger in the aftermath of a death, despite people’s most valiant attempts to move on, has earned the film widespread acclaim. 

The fact that the main character in The Lovely Bones exists in a supernatural realm may mislead you into thinking the film is entirely fictional. However, The Lovely Bones has several real-world connections. 

The Lovely Bones is loosely based on the real-world rape of Alice Sebold

Peter Jackson, the director of The Lovely Bones, adapted the film from Alice Sebold’s book of the same name. 

Alice based her story on the rape and murder of a 14-year-old girl from Norristown, Pennsylvania. The girl was abducted before being brutally raped and murdered. She wrote the story from the dead girls’ perspective. 

Sebold also included her experience with rape in the book. In May 1981, Sebold was assaulted and raped by an unknown assailant. She detailed the incident in a book titled Lucky, writing that a girl was previously murdered and dismembered in the same tunnel where she was raped. 

“In the tunnel where I was raped, a girl had been murdered and dismembered,” Alice wrote. “I was told this story by the police. In comparison, they said, I was LUCKY.”

Five months after the incident, Alice wrongly identified Anthony Broadwater as the rapist. Her testimony in court led to her erroneous conviction. It took forty years and a massive slice of luck for Broadwater to secure exoneration. To her credit, Sebold apologized, saying:

“My goal in 1982 was justice – not to perpetuate injustice,” she said. “And certainly not to forever, and irreparably, alter a young man’s life by the very crime that had altered mine.”

“I will also grapple with the fact that my rapist will, in all likelihood, never be known, may have gone on to rape other women, and certainly will never serve the time in prison that Mr Broadwater did.”