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Free Study Guide The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold

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THE LOVELY BONES CHAPTER SUMMARY

CHAPTER 16

Summary

This chapter begins in the Singh house where once again Dr. Singh had called to say he would not be home for dinner. To drown out the pain of his absences, Ruana would stretch and exercise to empty her mind of what his being gone so much meant. She doesn’t believe there is another woman, but she is losing him, nonetheless, to his ambition. She doesn’t want to contemplate how life will be once Ray is grown and her husband never comes home. The doorbell rings and it is Ruth Connors who has come to see Ray. She is determined to do something to mark the first anniversary of Susie’s death. The two of them are still good friends even though they had tried kissing each other to see if they felt anything. Neither of them does, but they promise to continue trying while Ruth helps Ray by pretending to be Susie.

Ruth has never been in Ray’s bedroom and is pleased to see he has hung above his bed a charcoal drawing she had done of Susie. She convinces him to go with her to the cornfield to light candles to say goodbye. Before they leave, they kiss once more and Ruth thinks she is beginning to feel something. When they arrive at the cornfield, Samuel and his brother, Hal, are already there and someone had left daffodils, Susie’s flower, on the spot where she had died. Soon, the neighbors, seeing the young people there, begin to drift there, too. Lindsey sees all the people walking to the cornfield and tells her mother, who is once again reading the books she had studied in college. She tells Lindsey she’s just not interested. Lindsey had been hovering over Abigail for weeks, sure that there is something behind her icy surface, so she sits by her mother and just watches out the window.

In the cornfield, the candles are lit. More and more people begin to arrive, having been talking for weeks of nothing but Susie and the rumors that Mr. Harvey had killed her. They begin to sing a dirge-like Irish ballad started by Mr. O’Dwyer. They come, because they know that what had happened to Susie could happen to anyone. However, they don’t call on the Salmon house, because they don’t want to imagine how Susie’s death had hurt them. Inside the Salmon home, Abigail tells Lindsey there are other ways to honor Susie’s memory than lighting candles in a cornfield. However, she has no answers to Lindsey’s, “Like what?” She just says she wants to be more than a mother which prompts Lindsey to ask if she’s going to leave their family. She lies and promises she’ll never leave, even though she already knows she will. She rocks Lindsey in her arms and tells her that she’s doing so well, because she’s keeping her father alive.


Lindsey decides to get her father and Buckley and go to the “party for Susie.” Buckley tells Lindsey that he sees Susie, who comes to talk with him while Lindsey is at soccer practice. Lindsey is so moved that she hugs her little brother and promises him she will always be there for him. As they are getting ready, Abigail silently moves into the dining room with her books, so Jack won’t see her.

Susie realizes that the circle of candles is her friends saying goodbye. She will soon be just a “little girl lost . . . and a letter from the past never reopened or reread.” She, too, can say goodbye to them and just wish them well and bless them for their good thoughts. Samuel and Ray walk towards Jack, Lindsey, and Buckley and help them merge into the group. As Jack looks around each of the faces there, he realizes there are people who loved Susie whom he doesn’t even know. This gives him a warm feeling that he hasn’t felt in a very long time. Jack urges Mr. O’Dwyer to sing, because Susie loved listening to him sing Irish ballads during the summer. He sings clear and fine and everyone joins in. It reminds Susie of how she would hear him on those hot summer evenings just at sundown with the feeling of a thunderstorm coming to cool her off. Her mother would see her standing at the window in her thin nightgown, and she would say that Susie looked invincible. Susie felt at those times that she and her mother felt the same thing: she was invincible.

Notes

The picture we see of Ruana Singh as she exercises to forget that her husband is absent and her son is growing up and away from her remind us of Abigail. Susie’s mother wants more than anything to escape her world as does Ruana. The difference between them is that Ruana would never walk away from her child, no matter how unhappy she was, while Abigail will eventually leave and not look back for a long time.

The relationship between Ray and Ruth is odd, but seems to be solidifying. The obsession each feels for Susie makes it difficult to be more than friends, but Ruth tries by pretending to be Susie. It’s as if she wants to be Susie even without her desire to comfort Ray.

Abigail’s refusal to go to the candle-lighting separates her even more from her family. They are pulling away from her as well, shown when no one asks if she wants to go. Even Lindsey seems to have pushed her mother into the background on this night, because she knows in her heart that her mother is going to leave.

Both Susie and her father find comfort in this little memorial, he because he feels warmed by all the people who loved Susie and she, because she can begin to say goodbye. This is the first step in Susie’s letting go of Earth. It seems ironic that her mother thought Susie was invincible since she was murdered, but the truth is that Susie, no matter whether in heaven or on earth, has the ability to endure.

 

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