The Lovely Bones | Blueberry Angel Food Cupcakes
"My name was Salmon, like the fish; first name Susie. I was fourteen when I was murdered on December 6, 1973."
I first read "The Lovely Bones" by Alice Sebold, which opens with the brutal rape and murder of fourteen-year-old Susie Salmon, when I was only 13 or so. I don't know which parent was in charge of monitoring the contents of my growing personal library at the time, but they definitely dropped the ball on this one. I had nightmares for months!
But, having recently revisited the book (and the movie) as an adult, I was able to move past the gruesome opening pages, and was instead struck by how Sebold explores Susie and her now fractured family's need for closure. Told from Susie's new vantage point in heaven, the story follows the grief-stricken family's attempts to solve Susie's murder and cope with their loss, while Susie, not ready to release her hold on life, becomes obsessed with watching her family, friends, and almost-beau. Susie's father, whom a Goodread's review calls "the most loving and sympathetic fathers in contemporary literature," is more sensitive to Susie's lingering presence and takes to trying to solve the case himself, which ultimately becomes a problem for him and his entire family.
Even though it opens with a murder, this isn't a thriller, or a WhoDunIt book. Sure you'll bite your nails when Susie's father starts to suspect different people around the neighborhood and beg the police to take the case more seriously, but Sebold steers clear of the clichéd use of "bones." There's no mention of Susie's rotting bones. As a matter of fact, past the first chapter, nothing goes bump in the night. Instead, the "bones" become a metaphor for something a lot deeper.
"These were the lovely bones that had grown around my absence: the connections—sometimes tenuous, sometimes made at great cost, but often magnificent—that happened after I was gone. And I began to see things in a way that let me hold the world without me in it. The events that my death wrought were merely the bones of a body that would become whole at some unpredictable time in the future. The price of what I came to see as this miraculous body had been my life."
The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold: 4 stars
Although Sebold never actually uses the term "angel," throughout the book, that is exactly what Susie becomes, a sort of guardian angel looking over her family. So for this book, I decided to play around with some angel food cake! Angel cake is basically just cake with no butter, a thinner cake flour, and LOTS o' egg whites, and of course it got its name for being so light and fluffy, the food of the angels.
Last time I tried a recipe for cupcakes meant to be light and airy was with Dorian Gray. But I died the batter black to keep with the Gothic theme and I think it ruined my batter. This time, nothing fancy! Just light and fluffy angel food cake with blueberries hidden inside and some grated lemon peel for extra flavor.
Usually angel food cake is served with a glaze or no frosting at all, but I also wanted to try my hand at ombre icing. So I used regular buttercream icing, dyed three shades of blue to match this gorgeous book cover. How'd I do?
Blueberry Angel Cupcakes
11 egg whites
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons cake flour
1-1/2 cups sugar, divided
1-1/4 teaspoons cream of tartar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon salt
1-1/2 cups fresh or frozen blueberries
1 teaspoon grated lemon peel
1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
2. Place egg whites in a large bowl; let stand at room temperature for 30 minutes.
3. Sift together flour and 1/2 cup sugar THREE times. Yes, this is necessary.
4. Add cream of tartar, vanilla and salt to egg whites; beat on medium speed until soft peaks form.
5. Add remaining sugar, about 2 tablespoons at a time, beating on high until stiff glossy peaks form and sugar is dissolved.
6. Gradually fold in flour mixture, about 1/2 cup at a time.
7. Fold in blueberries and lemon peel.
8. Fill muffin cups three-fourths full and bake for 14-17 minutes or until cupcakes spring back when lightly touched.
9. Immediately remove from pans to wire racks to cool completely.
Blueberry Angel Cupcakes: 5 stars
“Murderers are not monsters, they're men. And that's the most frightening thing about them.”
“Between a man and a woman there was always one person who was stronger than the other one. That doesn’t mean the weaker one doesn’t love the stronger.”
"Each time I told my story, I lost a bit, the smallest drop of pain. It was that day that I knew I wanted to tell the story of my family. Because horror on Earth is real and it is every day. It is like a flower or like the sun; it cannot be contained."
“Our only kiss was like an accident- a beautiful gasoline rainbow.”
“You look invincible,' my mother said one night.
I loved these times, when we seemed to feel the same thing. I turned to her, wrapped in my thin gown, and said: I am.”
“The dead are never exactly seen by the living, but many people seem acutely aware of something changed around them. They speak of a chill in the air. The mates of the deceased wake up from dreams and see a figure standing at the end of their bed, or in a doorway, or boarding, phantomlike, a city bus."
“You don't notice the dead leaving when they really choose to leave you. You're not meant to. At most you feel them as a whisper or the wave of a whisper undulating down. I would compare it to a woman in the back of a lecture hall or theater whom no one notices until she slips out. Then only those near the door themselves, like Grandma Lynn, notice; to the rest it is like an unexplained breeze in a closed room."