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Free Study Guide The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold

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THE LOVELY BONES BOOKNOTES

CHAPTER 11

Summary

The chapter opens with Jack Salmon taking Holiday for a walk. This gives him an excuse to pass by Mr. Harvey’s house. He is convinced if he just stares long enough, he will see the clues he needs to prove the man is Lindsey’s murderer. No movement has been made on Susie’s case and her father is aware that Abigail leans heavily on what the police can do. He leans on his instinct, but he remembers that Ruana Singh had said she would only kill her child’s murderer when she was absolutely sure. Of course, Jack has only his “deep-soul” knowing and the law doesn’t recognize that.

Susie’s house in her heaven has verandas and circular staircases and windows with ledges and iron rails, and a campanile housing a bell that tolls the hour. But because the house she grew up in is that same little box that makes up Mr. Harvey’s house, she knows his house by heart. He has furnished his house with very little and he spends most of his time in the back on the first floor, building doll houses or when “his lust sets in, sketching blueprints for follies like the hole or the tent.” He also keeps to his usual pattern in the way he spends his days so that the police begin to lose their suspicion. He also counts things to reassure himself: a letter, a wedding ring, Susie’s Pennsylvania keystone charm, his mother’s pendant, all the things that belonged to his victims. He even has the heel of a shoe that belongs to a girl named Claire. She had survived his intent to kill her, because people heard her crying inside his van. He kept the heel to rub as a kind of worry stone. Mr. Harvey also likes to go down into his basement where he has hidden the bodies of the animals that all the neighbors believed had been killed by Joe Ellis. Mr. Harvey would spread quicklime on the bodies so he would have nothing left but the bones. Then, he would count them just like the souvenirs of his murders. When he counted the bones, it helped him stay away from the thoughts of killing that the souvenirs brought him. Susie realizes that this is the way he has tried to stop himself from killing children in the past.


Len Fenerman decides that it is time to place boundaries between the police and Susie’s father. He comes to this decision when Jack calls the station to say that Holiday, the dog, had stopped one morning in front of Mr. Harvey’s house and began to howl. Nothing Mr. Salmon did could budge the dog or stop the howling. So, Len goes to the Salmon house to speak to Jack. He talks briefly with Lindsey who has just returned from the Symposium for the Gifted. He comments that her parents probably missed her, but Lindsey says that they were probably glad she had been gone. Len knows this is true, because Abigail had been less frantic the last time he had visited the house. He speaks to Jack alone and tells him he must stop obsessing over Mr. Harvey. There is nothing to connect him to Susie’s death. He implies that he is giving up the investigation. Lindsey overhears the conversation and then, protects her father by implying to Len that he should leave. However, her mother comes downstairs and offers Len coffee. She is ready to entertain a guest who has just crushed Jack with his decision. Lindsey tries to convince her father to leave the room, but her father is “slowly fitting something together. It has nothing to do with George Harvey, nothing to do with me. It is in my mother’s eyes.” Jack is beginning to suspect the attraction his wife has for Len Fenerman and realizes she thinks Len is right to close down the investigation. Later, in the study, Jack feels more alone than he ever has. He writes in his journal, “I feel like I’m standing in the wake of a volcano.” He is still in two stages of grief: anger and depression.

Everything is falling apart for Jack Salmon. The police won’t take his calls, they don’t believe Harvey is the murderer, and his wife agrees with them, not him. He is also having trouble doing his job and fears he’ll soon be unable to support his two remaining children. His only comfort is in his low green easy chair. “The room is like a vault,” says Susie, “the chair like a womb, and me standing guard over him.” He decides to take a late night walk when he sees what looks like a penlight in the cornfield. He first turns out the porch light which the family could not bring themselves to turn off even though they knew Susie was dead; then, he grabs a baseball bat with the words find a quiet way in his head. He heads for the cornfield where he last sees the light and finds Clarissa, Susie’s best friend. She has been waiting for Brian Nelson. He doesn’t recognize her, thinks she’s Harvey, knocks her over, and calls out Susie’s name. This attracts Brian, who has been planning to meet Clarissa there, and he begins to attack Jack with a survival kit flashlight. Susie tries everything she knows to help from heaven, but she is only able to watch. She is trapped in her “perfect” world and can only taste his blood. She wants his tight love for her, but she also just wants him to go away and leave her be. She is granted one ability to alter earth: she blows out the candle that had been burning in her father’s study.

Notes

We see Jack Salmon’s continuing determination to find a way to prove Mr. Harvey is the killer. He becomes so annoying to the police that Len Fenerman finally has to tell him the case is being closed. He writes down all his anger and frustration in his journal, allowing Susie to see his fears as well. He is so beside himself with grief and loneliness that he follows a flashlight he sees in the cornfield. This behavior triggers an attack against him which will only add to his devastation. Susie, in the meantime, faces her own frustration as she watches Earth from heaven. She can’t help her father and she watches Mr. Harvey try to control his own obsessions in the cold, dark house laid out just like her own. He counts bones and belongings of the dead to stop his lust.

It is interesting to note that Holiday, Susie’s dog, instinctively knows that Mr. Harvey’s house is bad when he howls uncontrollably outside it. He has a deeper instinct and is in contrast with the police who are impotent.

 

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