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Free Online Notes for The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold-Study Guide
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In this chapter, Susie describes her heaven. At first, she thinks that everyone sees what she sees: her high school, people throwing shot put and javelin and soccer goalposts in the distance. She sees the high school rather than the junior high, because she had thought, since she was going to graduate from junior high that high school would be a fresh start. Then, she could be called Suzanne and all the boys would want her. She would protect all the misfit kids and she would take over in a matter of days. These were her dreams when she was on earth.

After a few days in heaven, she realizes that all the people she sees on the field are all in their own version of heaven and it just fit with hers without really duplicating it. She gets a roommate named Holly whom she meets sitting on a swing-set. Their heaven expands as their relationship grows and they both have Franny as their “intake counselor.” She is the same age as their mothers, because it is something they both want: their mothers. She tells them she is there to help them and that if there is something they desire and understand why they do, it will come. What Susie realizes eventually is she desires what she had not known on earth. She wants to be allowed to grow up. She, also, knows she cannot have what she wants most: Mr. Harvey dead and her living. But she thinks if she watches closely and wants it enough, she can change the lives of those she loved on Earth.

The beginning of the end of her parents’ hopes come when Detective Len Fenerman tells them have found a body part, Susie’s elbow. When her father says that they can’t be certain Susie’s dead, Detective Fenerman responds with what becomes the family’s mantra for awhile: Nothing is ever certain. Susie notes that her parents have a difficult time knowing how to touch each other, because they had never been broken together before. One had always been there to support the other and what’s more, they had never known the meaning of the word horror before. The next day, her father tells her sister Lindsay about the body part and she throws up.

The police find Susie’s blood soaked into the ground where the hiding place had been, but they are frustrated at not finding the rest of her body. They also find her copy of To Kill a Mocking Bird, the paper she had written on Othello, her notes from Mr. Botte’s class, and a love note from Ray Singh, a boy of Indian descent who calls himself the Moor, after Othello. Ray becomes a suspect, but he has an airtight alibi. Unfortunately for this young man who was socially unacceptable because he was different, this news doesn’t help him at school at all. Later, they find her hat with the bells and when Detective Fenerman returns it to Susie’s family, he tells them that with all the blood, the signs of violence and only one body part, they have to believe that Susie has been killed. Her mother wails with the grief, but her father waits until he can put his face into the soft fur of their dog, Holiday, and sob.

Lindsey, Susie’s sister, handles her grief by hardening herself, not letting herself cry. She even returns to school where she is called into the principal’s office so he can express his sympathy. He is so inept in how he handles the situation that Susie, from Heaven, begs him to try to make Lindsey laugh. He also tries to soften her grief by telling her that Coach Dewitt wants her to try out for the boy’s soccer team. Lindsey bursts his bubble by asking him why she would want to play in a field that is only twenty feet from where her sister was murdered. She stays strong and refuses to break before him. Later, at home, she keeps the grief away by doing sit-ups and push-ups until she is exhausted. Mr. Harvey, meanwhile, builds dollhouses, which he makes for a living, and “he wears his innocence like a comfortable old coat.”

In heaven, Susie finds herself desiring simple things and she gets them: dogs of all kinds. They run through the park in her heaven and she has them to give her comfort. Her roommate, Holly, plays the tenor sax for her comfort and the oldest resident of her Heaven, Mrs. Bethel Utemeyer, plays the violin while the dogs howl. Then, they all sleep and this becomes Susie’s Evensong, a song or prayer said every evening.


Heaven is obviously, in this novel, what each person dreams. A counselor, Franny, is even ready to offer help adjusting to death, but the dead one can still see her family and watch events on Earth as well. However, Susie cannot have what she wants most, so the author is implying that Susie’s adjustment to death will be a difficult one. It is also interesting to note that Susie capitalizes the word Earth whenever she talks about it while heavennis always lowercase. It is an indication of where he heart really lies.

The family’s mantra, “Nothing is ever certain,” is a reflection of the first step of the process of grief: shock and denial. The reality of Susie’s death hasn’t really hit home yet. The family is stunned and bewildered. It’s important to note that they react in different ways to her death. Then, when Detective Fenerman brings home the hat and tells them about the body part, they enter the second step which is anger. That’s when her mother wails and her father sobs into the dog’s fur and Lindsey toughens herself so she won’t break.

Her little brother, Buckley, who is only four and doesn’t really understand what gone means, draws a picture in which a thick blue line separates the air from the ground. This is what Susie will call the Inbetween, or perhaps, what we know as Purgatory. Susie watches the family walk past the picture and wants the picture to be a real place. She wants to be there, because she, too, needs an escape from the reality of her own death.

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