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Free Online Notes for The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold-Study Guide
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Because of Jack’s behavior in the cornfield, Lindsey returns to school in the fall of 1974 not only as the sister of a murdered girl, but also the daughter of a “nutcase.” This hurts her more, because she knows that her father should not be labeled that way. The rumors about what happened are kept alive by basic gossip, but also by Brian Nelson and Clarissa who, now in high school, tell the story over and over. When Susie sees Clarissa and Brian have sex, she feels that everyone she knows, except her, is growing up. As for Buckley, he goes to kindergarten and receives special treatment from his teacher, because his sister has died.

Abigail continues to drift aimlessly through life as a wife and mother. When she should be talking to and focusing on Buckley, she finds she thinks about the only thing that brings her pleasure: Len Fenerman. Meanwhile, they all know that the first anniversary of Susie’s death is sneaking up on them. This will be a milestone of some sort. Jack takes an extended leave of absence to allow his knee to heal and the company is quick to allow it. The work place is uncomfortable for those who just want him to put away his signs of grief. He stays away from Mr. Harvey and tries to curb his thoughts of him. He even apologizes in his journal to Susie, because he needs to take a rest and understand how to go after Mr. Harvey again. He plans to return to work just before the first anniversary, because it will allow him to be distracted and to be away from his wife. He doesn’t know how to swim back to her, because she is pulling farther and farther away from the house and he is retreating further and further into it.

Two weeks before Thanksgiving and Grandma Lynn’s arrival, Jack goes outside to play with Buckley. He encourages the boy to climb on his back, so he can carry him piggyback once again. In heaven, Susie cross her fingers that he’ll be able to carry his son in spite of his knee, because it will be a way to begin repairing “the basic fabric of their day-to-day lives.” At that moment, her father is her hero. He carries Buckley all the way upstairs to the bathroom where they find Lindsey shaving her legs. He feels such pain, because he remembers Susie, who has stopped forever short of sitting as Lindsey does, shaving her legs. Nonetheless, he gets Lindsey a fresh blade, thinking that Abigail should be doing this as mother to daughter. He teaches Lindsey what Abigail has not about shaving her legs and then, he sits down beside her and they talk. Lindsey wants to know if he still thinks Mr. Harvey killed Susie. His adamant lack of doubt makes Lindsey ask how they can prove he killed her. And then they both come to the same conclusion at the same time: they need to get into his house. Jack steps away from the idea and leaves the bathroom. But as he leaves, Lindsey knows that he just needs someone to do it for him.

Grandma Lynn arrives for Thanksgiving and with her razor-sharp intuition, she sees something different about Abigail. She insists on helping her daughter with the dishes where she tells her she knows something is going on that isn’t kosher. Then, Grandma Lynn forces Abigail to take a walk with her where she tells Abigail that her father had had an affair. Through this revelation, Grandma Lynn sees nuggets of truth beginning to come out between them. She tries to get Abigail to promise her that she’ll never see the man she’s been with again. But Abigail only says that she wants to use her father’s cabin if she needs to get away for awhile. Then, Abigail smells the smoke of foreign cigarettes and tells her mother she is going to find them. Grandma Lynn heads home while Abigail comes upon Ruana Singh.

The two women smoke together while upstairs in the Singh house, Ray smells the smoke but is unaware that Susie’s mother is with his own. He wishes he could have that moment on the scaffold to do over again. He thinks if he had only kissed Susie, things might have turned out differently. As for Grandma Lynn, she walks by Mr. Harvey’s house on her way back and she knows that Jack is right. There is a malevolence radiating from that house. Her thoughts of her daughter are sympathetic ones, because Abigail is living in the middle of “ground zero” and there is nothing Lynn can do to help her.

That night Abigail dreams of India where a young girl is led to a funeral pyre and burned alive. This burning pulls her mother into a dream-like bliss, because even though she was burning, the girl first had a body that was clean and whole. Abigail thinks she herself does not.


Susie gives us a serious picture of how the family’s grief is tearing them apart. Jack wants to go back to work for the distraction it will bring while Abigail can only think of Len Fenerman. When her father tries to repair their lives by bonding again with Buckley, he is instantly jolted back to reality by Lindsey’s shaving her legs. He realizes Susie will always be forever short of growing up. Grandma Lynn tries to repair the pain by talking over with Abigail her “affair.” Abigail avoids discussing the truth and Lynn is left to the realization that there is nothing she can do for her own daughter but sympathize.

Also, the chapter presents Lindsey’ willingness to help her father get into George Harvey’s house, something she can do to help ease his pain. Ray is revealed in a pain of his own - a what-if - where his kissing Susie that day at school might have in some way prevented her death.

Abigail’s dream is consistent with her own needs. She wants the young whole complete body and a new beginning for her life.

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