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Free Study Guide The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold

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FREE PLOT SUMMARY/SYNOPSIS - THE LOVELY BONES

CHAPTER 4

Summary

This chapter reveals the events immediately after Susie’s murder: her mother was making phone calls, her father was going door to door in the neighborhood, and Mr. Harvey took Susie’s body to his house in a sack. After his house changed hands, the new owners wondered about the stain on the floor of the garage. They never knew it was Susie’s blood seeping out of the bag. It is some time before Susie realizes that Mr. Harvey has killed other girls. While Mr. Harvey washes up, he replays in head, just he has done with all the girls he killed, Susie’s “muffled scream . . . her delicious death moan.” He is going to throw away his book of sonnets, which he had had in the hiding place, as well as the knife in the bag holding Susie’s body, but at the last minute, he saves them for himself. In heaven, Susie thinks to herself that she will be like the dogs around her who seek out an interesting scent. Just like they don’t shut down their desire to know, she doesn’t either. She hunts and she will hunt down Mr. Harvey if she can.


Mr. Harvey takes Susie’s body parts in the waxy orange sack to a sinkhole eight miles from their neighborhood. He reflects that he is getting better and better now by making each kill different as “a surprise to himself.” He puts the bag in a metal safe and gives it to Mrs. Flanagan, who, along with her husband, makes her living by charging people to throw things in the sinkhole. It’s so heavy that Mrs. Harvey jokes, “What you got in there, a dead body?” He pays her $20 to throw Susie in the sinkhole. On his way back to his car, Mr. Harvey finds Susie’s charm bracelet in his pocket. He touches each of the little charms and then, finds an industrial park being built south of Downingtown. He pulls the Pennsylvania keystone charm off the bracelet and throws the rest of it into a pond.

Two days before Christmas, Susie sees Mr. Harvey reading a book about tribes who used cloth and ropes to build shelters called bridal shelters. He wants to experiment again like he did with the hiding place where he killed Susie. He decides to gather the simple materials and raise it in his backyard. Susie’s father finds him there just after he sees Susie in the shards of glass. He asks Mr. Harvey what he’s building and even helps him erect it. Mr. Harvey leaves for a few moments, going upstairs to check on the knife he had used to kill Susie. He looks it over and then comes back downstairs to talk to Mr. Salmon. Susie’s father says to her just before Mr. Harvey returns, “I can hear you, honey. What is it?” When Mr. Harvey hands her father some of the tarps he is using for his new shelter, his hand sends an electric shock through her father and he says, “You know something.” Mr. Harvey just replies, “Go home. I can’t help you.” Susie is reminded as the snow falls around her father and Mr. Harvey that she will never again play in the snow with Holiday or even teach her little brother to make snowballs. It is a thought that makes her ache.

Notes

Susie sees the bloodstain her body leaves behind as a clue, but, by the time the police will discover it later, Mr. Harvey will be gone. Through her observations, we realize that Mr. Harvey is a serial killer who finds great pleasure in the sounds his victims make when they die. He also keeps souvenirs of his kills, in this case, Susie’s charm, his bloodstained book of sonnets, and the knife he used to kill her. Susie takes on the persona of the dogs who surround her in heaven: she becomes a hunter of Mr. Harvey.

It is ironic that Mrs. Flanagan observes that the safe Mr. Harvey brings to the sinkhole is heavy enough to hold a dead body. Susie’s dead body is in there. Susie’s father while helping Mr. Harvey raise his tribal shelter comes to the realization that Mr. Harvey knows something about Susie’s death. This will foreshadow his obsession with the man for nearly the remainder of the story. For Susie, the pain and regret can be found in all the snow she will never again play in.

 

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