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Free Study Guide The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold

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LITERATURE STUDY GUIDE FOR THE LOVELY BONES

CHAPTER 21

Summary

Susie leaves the hospital and goes to watch Ray Singh, the boy - now man - who “had been her almost, her might-have-been.” She does not want to leave him anymore than she wants to leave her family. She remembers how she talked with Grandma Lynn on the phone about that first kiss with Ray. Grandma Lynn confessed that her first kiss was from a grown man and that it was wonderful. She got Susie to confess that she was afraid to kiss him, because she was afraid she wouldn’t be good at it. Grandma wisely replied, “Just have fun, kid.” Later, she had stood by her locker with Ray and just as she said his name, he kissed her. She knows now she wants more than that one kiss.

Ruth meets up with Ray now that she has returned to see the sinkhole one last time. She reads an article from the newspaper detailing how the hole will be filled in. On the way to the sinkhole, they see Joe Ellis, the boy who had been blamed by Mr. Harvey for killing all the animals in the neighborhood. They both note that he never got over how the town had treated him after that. He had been broken and even though he loved animals, he was never able to bring himself to have one again.

Len Fenerman, with a knapsack on his arm filled with pieces of Susie’s case investigation, heads for the hospital to return the Keystone State charm. It is all he has to give them. When he enters the room, the force of his presence really hits Abigail and makes Susie feel suddenly very lonely. Her father is visibly deflated when he realizes Len hasn’t found Susie’s body. The night before, both Jack and Abigail had finally said the words, “She’s never coming home,” a truth they had always known, but had never voiced. Having her body could bring the final closure they needed. But Len explains to them that he all he has is Susie’s charm and that they found it in the grave in Connecticut. Abigail fiercely hopes that Len is not opening the case again. “For my mother, connecting her life to his capture and punishment spoke more about choosing to live with the enemy than about having to learn to live in the world without me.” When Abigail asks Len how he can be sure that Harvey killed those other girls, he answers, “Nothing is ever certain, “ an echo of the phrase he had used the day Susie was killed. Susie thinks it’s “a cruel phrase that preyed on hope.” Abigail then asks him to leave and Len is left with just his apartment above the barber shop and the realization that the love he made to Abigail that day at the mall was just, on her part, a willful act of forgetting.

Susie then heads back to Ruth and Ray when she suddenly sees Mr. Harvey driving a beat-up car and thinking constantly about the girls he has killed. Susie wonders when he will think of her.


Ruth and Ray arrive at the sinkhole and not much has changed since the day Susie’s body was buried there. Susie remembers how she and Buckley went one day with her father to bury a refrigerator in the sinkhole. She remembers, like Ruth and Ray, worrying that it might swallow her. Of course, ironically, it really did. Then, Ruth asks aloud if Ray ever wonders where Susie’s body ever ended up. Ray turns to go inside the Flanagan’s old house just as Ruth sees Susie looking at the spot where Mr. Harvey dumped her body. Ruth says Susie’s name, feeling her presence. Ruth tells her she has written poetry for her and asks her the ultimate question, “Don’t you want anything?” Susie vanishes.

Susie then sees her family all doing different things: Buckley, Hal and Samuel at a bike show; Grandma Lynn at the mall; her mother and father together at the hospital; and Lindsey home alone while Mr. Harvey drives back into their neighborhood. In heaven, Holiday whines at Susie’s feet as they watch him. No one outside recognizes him, but the woman who now lives in his house sees him drive by and abruptly goes back in the house and watches him. He looks up and sees Lindsey sitting in the window of her house. Then, Susie sees walking down the street all the animals and murdered women who were leaving Mr. Harvey’s old house. He doesn’t see them, thinking instead of Lindsey and the bridal tent. A police car comes up behind him and asks him to leave the neighborhood. Susie thinks of the convergence of luck that had saved her sister: a woman who was alarmed by Harvey’s face and a police car that moved him along. However, as long as he was free, everyday for Lindsey was a question mark.

Ray and Ruth are about to leave the sinkhole when Ray spies some periwinkle along the road he wants to pick for his mother. He climbs down over the edge of the road and Susie realizes that Holiday wasn’t whining for Lindsey. Instead, he is whining, because Mr. Harvey’s car is coming along the road directly toward Ruth. Mr. Harvey sees the sinkhole and remembers that he dumped a body there. Ruth sees in his car the ghosts of women in blood-colored gowns. Then, she blacks out and that is the moment when Susie falls to Earth.

Notes

It is significant that this chapter opens with Susie’s retelling her feelings for Ray Singh and how she wanted to kiss him, but was afraid she wouldn’t be good at it. It prepares us for the next chapter when her greatest desire will be fulfilled.

When Ray and Ruth go to the sinkhole, it is almost like a replay of the crime. Susie’s body is there, even though they don’t know that; they see Joe Ellis who had been a suspect; Ruth sees Susie’s ghost; and Mr. Harvey drives by them. This also prepares us for the convergence of the supernatural and perhaps the unbelievable aspects of life and death that will allow Susie to “fall to earth.” Ruth has asked her if she wants anything and now she is about to give Susie something she wants more than anything.

The supernatural almost seems at work as well when Lindsey is protected from Mr. Harvey by the lucky convergence of a woman’s intuition and a police car called to the neighborhood.

And even though it is not really supernatural, there is a strength that seems to come over Abigail as she decides to cling to the family she really loved and finally push Len Fenerman out of her life.

 

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