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Free Study Guide The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold

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BOOK SUMMARY FOR THE LOVELY BONES

CHAPTER 10

Summary

As this chapter opens, Lindsey, Samuel, and Ruth are attending the Statewide Gifted Symposium the summer after Susie dies. Lindsey and Samuel have a much easier time adjusting to the gifted environment there than Ruth. She suffers with her obsession for Susie, constantly concentrating in hopes of breaking through to the dead and writing poetry in honor of Susie. Lindsey and Samuel belong to their own groups within the gifted community, but Ruth doesn’t belong anywhere. Nonetheless, Ruth introduces herself to Lindsey in the breakfast line and notes that Lindsey is Lindsey Salmon. When Ruth mentions her last name, Lindsey asks her to please not say the name. At that moment, Ruth understands what it’s like for Lindsey: when she has to claim herself as one of Susie’s family, the people who meet her only see a girl covered in blood.

This summer is also when Lindsey and Samuel’s relationship begins to grow even more quickly and deeply. Susie learns this from Ruth’s journal where she also learns how Ruth thinks of her imagination of Susie as a way to feel less alone, to be connected to something out there. Most importantly, Susie comes to realize from Ruth’s journal that she is perhaps a lesbian. “It was not so much that she wanted to have sex with women, but that she wanted to disappear inside of them forever. To hide.”

The last week of the symposium is always devoted to a “better-mousetrap” competition. Lindsey and Samuel are working together and Lindsey has even caught field mice for the project. However, she becomes concerned about killing them and wants instead to build a little purple couch to put inside. When the mice sit on the couch, she says, little balls of cheese will fall down. After all, she thinks, it’s a better mousetrap they’re building, not a better mouse death camp. Samuel knows not to press Lindsey about the plan, because he knows how difficult it is for her to deal with death since Susie died.

In heaven, Susie admits that she is spending less time in the gazebo, because she can still watch Earth as she explores the fields of heaven. Some of the dead who live in her heaven, leave at night and go to other heavens. She wonders what they are like and realizes she doesn’t fit in anywhere else. She feels so solitary even there. She wonders what the word heaven means and why she doesn’t see her dead relatives, especially her father’s father, who would dance with her. Then, she could feel only joy and have no memory of the cornfield or her grave. Franny, her counselor, tells her she can have those things if she stops desiring certain answers. Susie must stop “asking why you were killed instead of someone else, stop investigating the vacuum left by your loss, stop wondering what everyone left on Earth is feeling . . . simply put, you have to give up Earth.”


That night Ruth creeps into Lindsey’s dorm. Lindsey allows her to crawl into bed with her and she listens to Ruth’s dream about Susie: Ruth sees herself in the ground and Susie walking over her; she calls out to her but, then, her mouth fills with dirt and Susie cannot hear. Lindsey says she doesn’t dream about Susie; she only dreams about rats nibbling the ends of her hair. Ruth asks if she misses Susie and Lindsey replies, “More than anyone will ever know.”

The symposium ends not with the perfect mousetrap, but with a project to design the perfect murder. All the kids there love it and fliers are posted everywhere. Lindsey doesn’t know this as she comes in for lunch. Artie, a boy who had liked Susie, becomes the one to tell Lindsey about the new competition. Samuel rushes in just as Artie tells her before she sees the flier. Samuel and Susie both “see the tremor. The inside shakeoff of her heart. She was getting so good the cracks and fissures were smaller and smaller. Soon, like a sleight-of-hand trick perfected, no one would see her do it. She could shut out the whole world, including herself.”

Ruth later talks over the incident with Artie. They discuss how they both found out what had happened to Susie, how Ruth sensed Susie’s death even before she actually knew. Artie only wonders who told Lindsey. They stand there at a loss for words while the rain begins to fall. Artie crawls under the picnic table while Ruth whispers to herself, “I think she listens.”

After that, everyone at the symposium knows who Lindsey is and how her sister died. All of them can relate only in that they know someone who had died. But no one knows anyone who has been murdered. Lindsey and Samuel find a rowboat that is too old and worn to float and crawl under it together. There, in his attempt to comfort her, Samuel becomes sexually aroused and for the first time, they make love. Susie thinks, “In the walls of my sex there was horror and blood, in the walls of hers there were windows.”

Notes

There is still a connection between Ruth and Susie. Even though they are on different planes of existence, they exist very much in the same way. Neither of them feels a part of her world. Both obsess over what the other can tell her. They both hope the other can hear. Franny’s advice to Susie about how to find the heaven where she really belongs indicates that Susie, like Ruth, has no idea how to move on. She clings to life and won’t face her death. She even tries at one point to step beyond the boundaries of heaven and ends up with a horrible headache, a sign that she no longer belongs on Earth. Susie hasn’t yet figured this out.

Lindsey still spends her time trying to stay in control. Besides Susie, the only one who is aware of Lindsey’s pain is Samuel. He knows when she nearly cracks over the new competition of the perfect murder and responds by offering the only thing he can give her and which she will accept only from him: his love.

 

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