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Free Study Guide The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold

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NOTES FOR THE LOVELY BONES

CHAPTER 5

Summary

This chapter begins with Susie’s observation that her father could never be the man she wanted him to turn into - “a man violent in rage.” Instead, he awakens each morning as the man he had always been until his consciousness allows a poison - the knowledge of her death - to seep in. He has to get up immediately or be lost. He is overcome with guilt that he wasn’t there when his daughter needed him most.

When he returns from Mr. Harvey’s house, he sits in his den and writes thoughts in a journal he is keeping like, “I think Susie watches me.” When Susie reads this from heaven, she is so happy, because she thinks he knows she is there. When Lindsey enters the house, her father stops writing, almost fearful of what he might say, and Susie feels somewhat resentful, just like at the dinner table when Lindsey’s achievements received all the attention. However, Susie respects Lindsey the most for how she is handling the death in the family, because she, more than the others, has to face the Walking Dead Syndrome: she looks so much like Susie that people see Susie rather than her and react accordingly. Lindsey herself is not even immune from this reaction and so she avoids mirrors. Instead, she thinks of Susie only when she is in the dark or in the shower. If she thinks the one word Susie, she can cry without being seen or she can imagine Susie getting away or herself being taken instead and being strong enough to get away. When Susie’s father turns to Lindsey for comfort, however, she is unable to give it to him, telling him, “I’m handling this on my own.”

Susie’s father then turns to Detective Fenerman to tell him about his suspicions that Mr. Harvey is the murderer. Detective Fenerman has already accepted that Susie is dead and her father has little or no acceptable evidence that Mr. Harvey is their man. He tells him that he will take the time to check it out. Then, her father goes looking for her mother who is in the downstairs bathroom eating all the macaroons his business had sent them for Christmas. “They were like suns bursting open in her mouth.” Unfortunately, Buckley finds her first and when he calls out, “Momma!” she despises the word. He asks his parents where Susie is, but neither can find the answer and he is satisfied when his father promises him a trip to the zoo.


Detective Len Fenerman’s trips door-to-door in Susie’s neighborhood prompt nothing unusual about Mr. Harvey: his wife had died before they could move in together and he built dollhouses for specialty stores. He talks to Mr. Harvey himself who readily admits he spoke to Mr. Salmon and that they had built the “bridal tent” together, a task he claims to do every year in memory of his wife, Leah. When Mr. Harvey asks how the investigation is coming, all the detective can say is that clues find their way in good time, if they want to be found. Mr. Harvey mentions that the Ellis boy had hurt some animals in the neighborhood and maybe he should be checked out. However, the boy has an alibi with witnesses. When Detective Fenerman reports all this to Susie’s father, Mr. Salmon remembers that Mr. Harvey told Susie’s mother that his wife’s name was Sophie. Detective Fenerman doesn’t find that convincing, so Susie’s father writes the names in the notebook he’s keeping. He doesn’t know it, thinks Susie, but he’s keeping a list of the dead. Leah and Sophie are two of the names of Mr. Harvey’s victims.

Christmas is very uncomfortable for Susie’s family. Except for Buckley, no one wants any gifts, even though her mother had bought a few things well before Susie’s disappearance. Lindsey and her father are playing Monopoly when Samuel Heckler comes to the house to visit Lindsey. Susie wants to make the old shoe piece, her special piece, jump up on the board and leap from Boardwalk to Baltic. But she can’t. Her father whispers, “Railroads, Susie, you always liked owning those railroads.” Lindsey has a terrible time keeping Samuel out of her emotions like she has kept everyone else. He’s cute, she’s thirteen, and he visits her on Christmas Day.

When Buckley once again asks where Susie is, Mr. Salmon finally realizes that he must talk to his son. He pulls him on his lap and points to the old shoe in the lid of the Monopoly box. He tells Buckley that this piece was the one Susie liked to play with and that the Scottie dog can be his piece from now on. Then, Mr. Salmon puts all the pieces on the board and asks Buckley what would happen if he took one of the pieces away. Buckley responds that the player couldn’t play anymore. But why couldn’t she play anymore? That’s when Susie’s father explains that Susie is dead and that none of them will ever see her again. Buckley takes the shoe and puts it on his dresser for himself until one day it just isn’t there anymore.

Meanwhile, Mrs. Salmon stays in the kitchen counting silverware. She “wanted a cigarette and for her children who were living to disappear for a little while.”

Samuel has come to the house to give Lindsey a Christmas present, a moment that Susie knows Lindsey would never have revealed to her had she been alive. He gives her sister half a heart on a chain and around his neck on a rawhide cord hangs the other half. Lindsey’s thank-you kiss makes Susie feel almost alive again.

Notes

Mr. Salmon has entered the second stage of the grieving process - anger and guilt. His feelings are understandable, but are destroying him as he thinks about his inability to protect his daughter. The clue which the detective provides Mr. Salmon - the names Leah and Sophie - are part of his healing process. By bringing Mr. Harvey to justice, he can feel he is doing something to ease his guilt. Mrs. Salmon too is angry, but she is not fully out of the first stage. She acts stunned and bewildered, doing things that are silly and unnecessary. Her desire for her children to disappear for awhile foreshadows her later decision to leave her family.

Susie is in a grieving process of her own: she is unable to accept her own death and her need to help her family, so she watches them and has the same reactions to their lives as she would have had if she had been alive. Lindsey is the only one who is on her way out of her grief. She will have many more bad days, just like the rest of her family, but, thanks to Samuel, she is beginning to feel again. This foreshadows how he becomes her lifeline and her soul-mate, the man she will late marry. Buckley’s keeping of the shoe from the Monopoly game indicates he feels much more deeply about Susie’s death than the family think he’s capable. Later in the story, when he discovers the shoe is gone, he will have a very strong emotional reaction.

 

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