Free Study Guide The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold|
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NOTES FOR THE LOVELY BONES
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.
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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Clapsaddle, Diane. "TheBestNotes on The Lovely Bones".
. 09 May 2017