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Free Online Notes for The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold-Study Guide
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Susie’s mother, still working at the winery in California, receives a message of an emergency. She finally gets through to the hospital and discovers Jack has had a heart attack. She immediately buys a ticket for Philadelphia. When she lands in Chicago, she phones her mother who tells her what happened and that Jack is asking for her. Unfortunately, he is also asking for Susie. While she waits for her connecting flight, Abigail takes out of her wallet the one picture that she has kept turned upside down in a fold of leather, unlike the others that she looks at everyday. It is the class picture of Susie which had been just like the one Ray had put in the book and Len had placed in the evidence box. She props it up against the trunk of a tree outside the terminal and walks away. As she sits on the plane from Chicago to Philadelphia, Abigail muses that she had never been like all those girls who had dreamed of being mothers and as a result, she had been punished in the most horrible and most unimaginable way: Susie’s death and her own decision to leave her other two children behind. Susie “sends a wish into the clouds for her relief.”

When she arrives in Philadelphia, Lindsey, Samuel, and Buckley are waiting for her. She sees that Lindsey has lost all her body fat and is thin and angular, while Buckley is the chubby one even at 12. He looks just like she did at the same age - the same body she had “felt grateful her daughters had escaped . . .” Now she knows just what she has missed and what she can never recover. Lindsey finds the word Mom foreign to her, like soap in her mouth and her mother’s voice saying “Buckley?” only elicits an angry “Buck” from her brother. Then, when Lindsey tells her mother that the hospital won’t allow Buckley in to see his father, and Abigail says she’ll try to do something about that, Buckley’s response to her smile is a vicious, “Fuck you!” Abigail also tells Lindsey that she lied to her seven years ago when she left. They are connected immediately by a cord - “a hot wire of knowing” - which screams out the name Len. In the car, they can hear Abigail sobbing quietly, but Buckley refuses to feel anything but fury. “He had been keeping, daily, weekly, yearly, an underground storage room of hate.”

They arrive at the hospital and Abigail remembers it was the same room she had come to eight years before and first embraced Len Fenerman. The thought makes her want to fly back to California where she can hide. Nonetheless, she moves into Jack’s room and all the other people around her drop away. She holds his hand and cries silently as he opens his eyes and says, “Hello, Ocean Eyes.” He can see in those eyes flecks of possibility, of things he can hold onto. He thinks to himself that their relationship was like a long-ago ship with broken planks and boards. There were only remnants and artifacts now, but there was also possibility.

Grandma Lynn leaves the two of them alone and as she moves toward the waiting room, a nurse gives her a message of good wishes from Len Fenerman. She carefully folds it up and hides it in her purse.


Abigail’s immediate reaction to fly back to Philadelphia and Jack is a sign of the need in her heart that she has never lost. She is ready to put the past behind her as seen when she leaves Susie’s picture by the tree trunk. Abigail is, however, also paying the price for not wanting to be a mother: the death of her daughter and the furious anger of her son. There is a cord mentioned again when Lindsey and her mother face together the lie her mother had told about Len and about leaving. That tie may be a bridge for them, but she will have to work to regain her children’s love and trust. The ship with the broken planks and boards in Jack’s mind are the lies and the abandonment she had committed. Fortunately, she has been able to get past the memory of Len Fenerman and Grandma Lynn makes sure that he never enters their lives again.

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