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Free Study Guide The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold

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Susie sees Ruth collapsing on the road, but she misses Mr. Harvey driving away, “unwatched, unloved, unbidden.” She feels herself falling out of the gazebo and out past the farthest boundary of heaven. She hears Ray screaming Ruth’s name and in the next instance, she is in Ruth’s eyes looking up. She feels every sensation, but she cannot see Ruth. Susie feels herself fighting with Ruth who wants out of her body and at the last minute, Susie give in and Ruth, breaks all the rules, not dying, but going to heaven anyway. She also sees Franny calling for Susie and Holiday barking and then they are gone and something is holding her hand. She knows that she will not be granted this grace on Earth forever. Ruth’s wish will only last for a short time.

At the same time, as she sees the wildflowers he picked fall to the pavement, she sees the murdered women in heaven throwing rose petals as they see Ruth. She is a soul back on Earth, AWOL a little while from heaven. Ray can sense that something has changed and Susie asks him to kiss her. The moment is all she has dreamed and somehow Ruth had known this. Susie tells Ray to take her to Hal’s Bike Shop.

Susie asks Ray if he’ll stay near his home once he’s done with school and he replies that no one does. It then hits her that if, on Earth, she could leave one place and claim another, perhaps it’s also true for Heaven. She decides to take a shower in Hal’s bathroom and invites Ray to join her. He says, “Susie, you know I’m not like that.“ This is the first time he has called Ruth’s body by the name of the soul who now inhabits it. Now he is beginning to realize the wondrous miracle that has happened. Susie tells him who she is and how she has watched him for years, wanting more than anything for him to make love to her. They do and as he sleeps, Susie realizes that she has taken this time not to go out into the world of the living, but instead, to fall in love with the “dark bright pity of being human.” Suddenly, around the room, many spirits appear, a sign that Susie’s time on Earth is coming to end. She picks up a phone on Hal’s desk and dials her home number. Buckley answers and she tells him who she is, but then he can no longer hear her. When Ray comes out of the shower and touches Ruth on the shoulder, he knows as soon as she opens her eyes that Susie is gone.

Susie leaves Earth feeling like she’s riding backwards on a train through a tunnel. She is accompanied by all the spirits that had come into the room after she and Ray made love, so her leaving Earth and entering Heaven the second time is much easier. She is able to watch Ruth and Ray as they become aware of what has happened to them. Ruth is happier than she has ever been and for Ray, the possibilities this experience has opened up to him are just beginning to sink in.


This chapter is both wondrous and, of course, in some ways, unbelievable. The rational part of the reader will want to reject what happens here just as it will want to reject the whole premise of Susie watching from heaven all these years. However, the side of the reader willing to suspend his disbelief will read a wonderful, loving story of a girl, doomed to never grow up, suddenly, through the grace of Heaven, receiving her greatest desire. Mr. Harvey, “unloved and unbidden,” drives away and with that, evil finally leaves and love flows in. Also, now Susie can capitalize both Heaven and Earth.


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