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Free Study Guide The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold

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THE LOVELY BONES CHAPTER SUMMARY / ANALYSIS

CHAPTER 12

Summary

This chapter opens with Jack Salmon asleep in the hospital room and Susie watching over him. Her father has surgery to replace his kneecap and the surgeon shivers after hearing the story of the attack. He is about her father’s age and has children of his own. The thought of losing one of them like Jack has makes him shiver. He thinks he and Jack are very much alike and yet very different.

Meanwhile, Abigail, Lindsey, and Buckley awaken to find Jack gone from his usual place in the green chair. Amazingly, Abigail refuses to go out and find her husband and orders Lindsey and Buckley to either wait for him in their rooms or with her. Buckley clings to Lindsey, sucking his thumb and fearful of his mother. Then, when the call comes about Jack, Abigail makes Lindsey stay at home with her brother when all she wants is to go to her father. After Abigail leaves for the hospital, Lindsey calls Nate’s mother to care for Buckley and calls Samuel to ask his brother, Hal, to take her to the hospital on his motorcycle. She gets there before Abigail and takes her unconscious father’s hand. She sings a song that he had sung to her and Lindsey when they were small. Her father doesn’t respond, like Susie wants him to, because he is “locked away tight into the hard-blessed hours where there was no dead daughter and no gone knee, and where there was also no sweet daughter whispering rhymes.” Franny comments to Susie that when the dead are done with the living, the living can go on to other things. Susie wonders where the dead will go.


Abigail is not in Jack’s room, because she has put in a call requesting Len Fenerman meet her at the hospital. The nurses can tell by the way she takes his hand and whispers his name that he means something to her. They walk to a door which leads onto a balcony near Jack’s room and there, they smoke cigarettes and look at each other with a growing intensity. He tells her, when she asks, that his wife had committed suicide. Her mother’s reaction at this news reminds Susie of the mother she had only seen once before - in the photograph. He says her death occupies his thoughts during those times that he isn’t think about Susie’s murder. Abigail is grateful that he says the word murder, because she’s ready to have it said aloud. They begin to kiss and caress each other. It all reminds Susie of how her father would find a way to come home early from work every Thursday. Her mother would give them early baths and put them in bed for naps. Then, she would spend that time with Jack.

Now as she looks back on her mother as she was then, Susie realizes that her mother was very lonely and had lost the life she had wanted. She still held ideas about someday teaching English Literature, but knew deeply that that particular day would never come. Susie reaches across what she calls the Inbetween and takes her mother’s hand in her. She knows now her mother’s escape had been smashed when she became pregnant with Buckley. She sealed up the mysterious mother Susie sees on those Thursday afternoons until this moment with Len, this needy part of her, overtakes her. “Her rage, her loss, her despair. The whole life lost tumbling out in an arc on that roof, clogging up her being. She needed Len to drive the dead daughter out.” Susie also sees that over the years, her father had grown closer to his children and her mother farther away from them.

When Abigail finally pulls away from Len and returns to the hospital hallway, Hal calls out that he had brought Lindsey to the hospital and that Buckley is with Nate’s mother. She gets herself under control, never realizing that Hal’s stopping her was intended to do just that. In the room, she sees Lindsey and Jack have become a piece together and she is glad of it. Susie, watching it all, finally “knows one of the things heaven meant. She has a choice and it is not to divide her family in her heart.”

At the end of the chapter, Susie reveals that she and Holly, her roommate, like to watch the souls rise up from nursing homes and senior citizen homes in a way that seemed choreographed from somewhere far away. They begin to suspect that there is a place more all-encompassing than where they are.

Notes

Some significant ideas are expressed in this chapter: Abigail more and more is drawing away from her family. She is glad that Jack and the children have become one piece. She seeks out Len Fenerman to help drive her dead daughter out of her mind. She wants to leave it all. Susie’s death has brought out terrible needs that have not been fulfilled. Lindsey sees herself, like Susie, as her father’s protector and comfort. As for Susie, she, too, is beginning to move on, like her mother. She knows now that she has a choice to free her family and herself and that there is another, greater heaven waiting out there somewhere for her.

 

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