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Free Study Guide The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold

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FREE LITERATURE GUIDE FOR THE LOVELY BONES

CHAPTER 7

Summary

This chapter presents the idea that those who believe the dead linger on earth say are more open to possibility of the sight of the dead around them. This is true for Buckley as he and Nate race up the stairs to his room. He asks Nate if he sees Susie, his sister. Nate says no, but Buckley happily replies that she was gone for awhile, but now she’s back. Susie has tried not to yearn for Buckley in fear that he might see her face in the mirror or even a bottle cap. Franny just asks her, “Where do you think imaginary friends come from?” Buckley tells Nate that the night before, Susie had come into his room and kissed him on the cheek. Susie tells him to keep it a secret, because she isn’t ready to talk to her parents yet. He also shows Nate the hole in the mattress under Susie’s bed where she kept things she didn’t want anyone to see. One of the objects they find there is a bloody twig wrapped in one of her father’s handkerchiefs.

The year before, he and Nate had been stuffing rocks up their noses like little children will do, when Buckley decided to put that same twig in his mouth like a cigarette. Susie had been sporadically watching them from her bedroom window. Then, Nate had suddenly screamed out her name, because Buckley had gotten the twig caught in his throat. She had reacted quickly and decisively, grabbing the extra car keys for her father’s precious Mustang from under one of the terracotta pots and drove her brother to the hospital, even though she had never driven a car before. She burned out the emergency brake, but she saved his life. Later, she tells Holly in heaven that she still believes rescue is possible. Buckley shivers from the memory as he looks at the twig Susie had saved. He remembers how worried his parents’ eyes had looked in the hospital and the relief that filled them once he was safe. Now, he knows that his parents’ eyes have gone flat and the look of relief has never come back.


Susie feels faint in heaven as she watches this scene unfold. She imagines in her heaven an old Victorian house with a widow’s walk. At first, she thinks she sees a long row of women pointing her way. But then the women turn into crows all holding twigs in their beaks. They take wing and follow her as she returns to her bed. She wonders, “Had my brother really seen me somehow, or was he merely a little boy telling beautiful lies?”

Notes

This is an especially poignant chapter of how Buckley matter-of-factly details how he sees his dead sister, she kisses him, and she talks to him. It is also poignant, because it shows Susie being able to rescue her little brother, while reinforcing the irony that she had been unable to rescue herself. She wants so much for Buckley to have seen her, because she just can’t let any member of her family go.


CHAPTER 8

Summary

For three months Mr. Harvey dreams of buildings: thatched roof dwellings in Yugoslavia, wooden stave churches in Norway, and the Church of the Transfiguration from the Vologda. He dreams about the Church of the Transfiguration on the night of Susie’s murder, but eventually other dreams come back: the ones of women and children.

Susie sees all the way back to Mr. Harvey in his mother’s arms watching his father sorting colored pieces of glass. He especially is fascinated by the piece of amber around his mother’s neck that holds a whole and perfect fly. He looks at his father’s old sketchbooks when the bad dreams come back until he begins to dream dreams of the last time he saw his mother. His father had forced her from the car after their last fight and Harvey had never seen her again.

Notes

This short chapter creates a disturbing picture of Susie’s murderer, George Harvey, who grew up in a terribly dysfunctional family where his father had forced his mother out of the car in the desert. The boy had never seen her again. He tries to make himself dream about buildings and how his father lectured him on building them to last. This keeps away the “not still” dreams of the women and children he murdered.

 

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