What is the setting of The Lovely Bones?

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belarafon | High School Teacher | (Level 2) Educator Emeritus

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Alice Sebold's critically acclaimed 2002 novel The Lovely Bones, about a young girl named Susie who is murdered, was adapted by Peter Jackson into the 2009 film of the same name.

The setting of the novel is Norristown, in Pennsylvania; it is shown to be near Philadelphia. Norristown is a typical small town in the 1970s-80s. The people there are friendly and everyone knows everyone else. In the novel, it is unthinkable to the locals that one of their own is a pedophile and murderer; everyone is convinced that it "can't happen here." Local residents are suspected, but the actual murderer escapes legal justice because he knows how to appear innocent. The small town is contrasted with the larger city of Pennsylvania; Norristown contains hay and corn fields, and people are on a first-name basis, while Susie's mother instantly suspects strange people in Philadelphia while she lives there. The murder breaks apart the local trust that people have with each other, making their interactions hostile and more like those in a larger city. The alteration of Norristown from friendly to suspicious is contrasted with the alteration of Susie's family from normal to broken after her murder; it affects both her family and everyone around them, spreading in what she calls:

...the lovely bones that had grown around my absence: the connections -- sometimes tenuous, sometimes made at great cost, but often magnificent -- that happened after I was gone.
(Sebold, The Lovely Bones, Google Books)


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