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Free Study Guide The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold

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BOOK REVIEW / GUIDE FOR THE LOVELY BONES

CHAPTER 20

Summary

This chapter opens with Mr. Harvey who is in Connecticut. He finds a tin-roofed shack where he had killed a waitress several years before. He had buried her inside the shack, but when he enters, he sees that the grave is empty. He curls up beside the grave and falls asleep.

Like Susie, Len Fenerman counts the living. He watches young girls and women to try to see those who are wounded with hopes of helping them. He had entered a few pieces of new information in Susie’s file: the name of Sophie Cichetti, the name of her son who had told Hal that Sophie had been killed by a man who built dollhouses, and an alias of George Harvey. He also has the Pennsylvania Keystone charm. Susie thinks, as she watches him, of the barrels of toxic fluids behind Hal’s bike shop. They had been left there, hidden in the scrub by local companies, but now they were beginning to leak. It makes her both pity and respect Len Fenerman. He, like Susie, follows the physical to try to make sense out of things that are impossible to comprehend.

Susie’s mother buys all the daffodils, Susie’s flower, a young girl is selling outside the hospital and with the help of a nurse, places them in vases all around Jack’s room. Then, she leaves to get something to eat at an old diner not far away. As she walks through the parking lot, she sees a woman in a car and her face is that of “someone who wanted more than anything to be anywhere but where she was.” Abigail knows that face, because it is just like hers. Once she is inside the diner, she thinks about how she doesn’t know what to do anymore. She looks around the diner and everywhere she looks, she sees Susie and every man she sees, she sees Susie’s murderer. She walks back apprehensively through the parking lot and has to sit down in the lobby to catch her breath. As she sits there, she decides she will spend just a few hours with Jack and then say goodbye. The thought brings her relief.


Abigail goes back into Jack’s room and picks up his hand in hers. Susie is reminded of the grave rubbing that had been framed and mounted on the wall outside of her bedroom. It was of a knight in armor and Susie would pretend to be the knight while Lindsey was his wife. Lindsey would always say while they played this game, “How can I be expected to be trapped for the rest of my life by a man frozen in time?” Maybe this is the truth between her mother and her father. Abigail leans closer to Jack and even with the antiseptic odors, she can smell his smell. She remembers how she had taken one of his shirts with her when she left and how one night she had buttoned it over her pillow and hugged it to her. She had always thought of herself as the stronger one of their relationship, but now she knows she is the weaker. As she lays there with her head beside his, the love she had felt all along for him begins to return. Finally she falls asleep, thinking she should tell him goodbye as soon as he wakes up. Susie whispers to them the old rhyme her father used to say to her and Lindsey, telling them, “Stones and bones; snow and frost; seeds and beans and polliwogs. Paths and twigs, assorted kisses, we all know who Susie misses . . .”

Meanwhile, Mr. Harvey, in the tin-roofed shack, dreams on, not about the girl who was no longer there, but about the number 5 on Lindsey’s soccer jersey. He had seen it that day she broken into his house and he dreams about it whenever he feels threatened. That was the day his life began to spin out of control.

Jack awakens in his hospital bed with his wife’s breath warm against his cheek. He thinks about how he would like to hold her, but he is too weak. Instead, he thinks about how he will tell her all the things he felt after Susie’s death, things that no one knew but Susie. He listens to the rain and hears the chirps of birds and then, Susie slips into the room and stands beside them. She makes herself small in the darkness, unsure if she can be seen. She realizes that for all these eight years since her death, she had often left him to watch others or to explore places in heaven. However, she knows now that he has never left her. His devotion makes her know that she is still loved and in his love, she remains “Susie Salmon - a girl with her whole life in front of her.” Softly, Jacks says, “I thought if I was very quiet I would hear you. If I was still enough you might come back.”

When Abigail awakes, she and Jack talk about whether her running away had worked. Abigail, instead, points out Susie’s flowers all around the room. She stretches out beside him on the bed and he tells her he fell in love with her again while she was away. Susie wishes she could be where her mother is, because his love for Abigail is about loving her for everything, both good and bad. They talk about Susie and Jack says she was in the room just before Abigail awoke. He says, “Don’t tell me you don’t see her,” which prompts Abigail to finally admit that she sees her everywhere. She sees her when she sees two sisters together or two sisters and a little brother and she thinks about all that Lindsey and Buckley will miss with Susie no longer there and how her own leaving the family had no doubt been just as bad as Susie’s. She leans over and kisses Jack and when her tears begin to fall on his cheeks, he weeps as well.

Notes

In between the reconnection of the Salmon family, we see George Harvey lying in an empty grave, apprehensive and feeling threatened by the memory of Lindsey’s #5. He is a pathetic character, who sought love through the young girls and women he killed, but instead finally comes to an empty grave, a grave as empty as his life.

Len Fenerman is depicted here as lonely man who in a way lives in an empty grave, too. All the women and young girls who obsessed George Harvey now obsess him. He counts them, like George counted the bones, and he lives an empty life, thinking only of those who died and those who might. In this way, he is like Susie and Ruth. He is also like the leaking barrels of toxic fluid. He is to be pitied and respected at the same time.

Jack’s seeing Susie in the hospital room is significant, because it reflects his undying devotion and love for her. He is not crippled by his refusal to break the ties to her. Instead, he is uplifted and she is as well. Finally, with that realization, Jack is able to talk honestly and lovingly to Abigail and together, they cry for what was lost and what might yet be.

 

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