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Free Online Notes for The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold-Study Guide
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This chapter is an interlude between Chapters 16 and 17. Susie relates how the camera she received for her birthday became an obsession for her. She took so many pictures that she stored the undeveloped film in two boxes in her room labeled “Rolls to be sent out” and “Rolls to hold back.” She loves that she had rescued moments in time by using her camera. She had stopped time and no one could take it away from her, because, by taking that image, she owned it. Then, on a summer evening in 1975, Abigail makes love to her husband one last time and leaves the next day for her father’s cabin in New Hampshire. After she leaves, the neighbors begin to leave food on their doorstep, just as they would if Abigail had died. Jack tries very hard to “let go of any blame, of any hope, but it was impossible.”

In the fall, Grandma Lynn calls and says she is coming to stay with them. She promises so contain her drinking or stop all together. She knows they need her. It is obvious to the whole family that they will give her Susie’s room.

Lindsey asks Hal to take her to the police station to inquire about the investigation of Mr. Harvey’s whereabouts. While they are waiting to speak to Len Fenerman, Lindsey sees in his office a red scarf that belongs to her mother. She asks Len why he has it and he can give her no answer. Then, Hal sees the truth about Abigail and Len begin to dawn on Lindsey’s face and he carefully guides her out of the police station. When they reach the cycle shop Hal owns, Lindsey once again turns to Samuel to cry out her disbelief.

When Buckley turns seven, he builds a fort for Susie, because she had always promised to help him make one. A family of five little girls moves into Mr. Harvey’s house and the sound of them is cruel for the Salmons to hear. Jack sits in his study with the windows closed even on the hottest nights, because he can’t bear the sound of their laughter. He watches Buckley build his fort. Later, Buckley misses Susie at the oddest moments and wishes she would come out of the house and pound on the roof of his fort. However, he does not let himself miss his mother. When he “felt his heart hurt he turned into something stronger than a little boy, and he grew up this way.” Buckley also writes in school a story about a boy named Billy who liked to explore, saw a hole, and went inside. He never came out. It is a story that mirrors Buckley’s pain. Jack hangs it on the refrigerator, not understanding its significance, but Buckley knows there is something wrong with it and takes it down and hides it inside the mattress of Susie’s bed, the bed where she once hid those things that meant so much to her.

Len Fenerman finally comes to believe that Jack Salmon had been right all along. They find the bloodstain left on his garage floor and a coke bottle in the cornfield that had both Mr. Harvey’s and Susie’s fingerprints on it. However, they can’t find Mr. Harvey himself. Len tries to trace him through the people to whom he sold his dollhouses, but hits a dead-end. Susie feels sorry for him: he has failed to solve her murder and to understand his wife’s suicide and he has failed in loving her mother. He feels especially guilty, because he was making love to Abigail in the mall when Mr. Harvey was running away. He removes all the pictures of murdered children and his dead wife and places them in the evidence box of Susie’s murder. He closes all the cases in his mind. What Len does not know, however, is that in Connecticut on September 10, 1976, a hunter finds Susie’s Pennsylvania Keystone charm and the bones of a child’s foot.

Susie’s mother decides to drive cross country to California to find a job in one of the wineries. She sends postcards to Lindsey and Buckley from every town she stops in. As she drives, she is reminded of the first New Year’s Eve when Buckley was allowed to stay up until midnight. The sound of the song “Auld Lang Syne” reminded her of days gone by and what she was missing by being a mother and wife. When she gets to the California coast, all she can think of is walking into the waves which will wash her clean and give her a new beginning. She sees a baby who seems to be alone on blanket as walks down a cliff edge to the beach. She laughs when she realizes that the baby is being photographed and that there are a number of people she hadn’t first seen. To Susie, watching her, her mother may be thinking of the baby as one to replace her own or how if the baby was caught up in a wave, no one would be able to save her, just like no one, not even her mother, could save Susie.

Abigail finds a job in a winery and on her days off walks through the little towns around the area. On these walks, the grief wells up inside of her even though she tries to stop it. It is here that she begins to come to terms with what she is grieving for.

Jack organizes a memorial in the cornfield every year after the first, but fewer and fewer people come and when strangers who only knew her name came “it felt like a pinprick” to Susie, “the sensation of being simultaneously resurrected and buried within the same breath.” Ray Singh, at seventeen, has become an extremely handsome young man and Susie watches him with a longing which is different than the longing she feels for her family. He chooses Penn State as his college and when he arrives, he finds his mother has packed the book of Indian poetry to make sure he balanced his studies to be a doctor with something beyond science. Inside, he finds the long-forgotten photo of Susie and he cannot avoid staring at those lips he had once kissed.

Ruth moves to New York City while Grandma Lynn teaches Buckley how to garden. Occasionally, Abigail calls from California and Jack always says they still miss her. She replies that she knows that. When he asks if she’s going to teach like she had always planned, she replies that plans change. He can’t argue with that. Ruth works in a service bar and lives in a tiny little apartment. She walks the streets of New York City looking to help women and children who might be murdered. She is convinced that she has a second sight and that the world of dead women and children is very real to her. While at Penn, Ray reads an article in the library detailing how elderly patients in nursing homes often reported that they saw someone standing at the ends of their beds at night. Ray wonders, then, if he would stand at the end of one of those beds, would he feel something brush past him just like Ruth.

Mr. Harvey, meanwhile, travels all over the east coat, but stays mostly in Pennsylvania. He even comes back to his old house near Susie’s. One time, he comes upon the bodies of two campers who had unknowingly eaten poisonous mushrooms and had died. Just like the time he and his mother had taken mementos from roadside memorials, he strips their bodies of valuables and moves on.

In December, 1981, Len gets a call from Delaware informing him they had found the Keystone State charm from Susie’s bracelet. He doesn’t want to reopen the case, because of his own pain. However, he agrees to send the evidence to the detective who found the charm. Hal, too, gets an interesting call. He has been using his biker network to try to find George Harvey. He meets up with a biker named Ralph Cichetti whose mother had been murdered by her tenant. Hal doesn’t think it fits with George Harvey until Ralph tells him his mother’s murder built dollhouses. He places a call to Len.

Susie watches the years go by and the trees in her yard grow taller. She spends every day watching her family, but she always ends each day with her father. They become photographs in her mind and she comes to realize that her death changed moments on Earth. Then, one night, as she listens to Holly play her sax and Mrs. Utemeyer play the violin, she sees Holiday, the family dog, running toward her. He lived a long time, never leaving her father’s side after her mother left. He is so happy to see Susie that he knocks her down.


This chapter is a way for the author to depict all the moments that Susie watches as the years go by on earth. In all these moments, she is able to hold onto her family for a little longer, because she is the tie that binds all the people who knew her.

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