Alice Sebold’s novel The Lovely Bones, begins “My name was Salmon, like the fish; first name, Susie. I was fourteen when I was murdered on December 6, 1973.” The Lovely Bones is narrated by a suburban teen who has been brutally raped and murdered by a neighbor. After the police confirm Susie’s murder, her family struggles to cope with their loss and with the unanswered questions surrounding Susie’s death. Both of Susie’s parents withdraw into their own despair and become incapable of confronting the tragedy. Susie’s sister, Lindsey, deals with her own grief privately and maintains a stalwart image to the outside world. Buckley, the youngest of the Salmon children, is unable to comprehend the tragedy and spends much of his time with the family of a neighborhood friend. An acquaintance of Susie’s from school named Ruth befriends Susie’s boyfriend, Ray, who is a suspect in the murder, while Susie's “real” murderer continues to live a few houses down from the Salmon family, making sure to cover his tracks and appear to be as “normal” as the suburban world around him.
Susie’s family eventually grows apart when her mother moves away from their suburban home. Her sister continues to mature and experience adolescence despite her family’s disorder. Susie’s father eventually finds a way to reconnect with his son and daughter and resumes his life without his wife until he suffers a heart attack. The heart attack prompts Susie’s mother to return home and make amends with the family she abandoned. The lives of the Salmons continue together, each member returning to their memories of Susie in their own private ways. The novel ends with a couple finding Susie’s charm bracelet and speculating, “This little girl’s grown up by now.”
Chapter Summary and Analysis
Summary and Analysis: Preface, Chapters 1-5
This one paragraph summarizes one of Susie Salmon's memories of time spent with her father: him turning a snow globe that had a penguin in it.
Though readers don't know it on first reading, as the novel progresses this image becomes a metaphor for Susie's life: her world is turned upside down by forces larger than herself, and she is trapped in a perfect world (heaven), but still upset.
Susie Salmon is narrating the story of her own murder from beyond the grave. She was killed on December 6, 1973, by a neighbor named Mr. Harvey. Mr. Harvey rapes and kills Susie after luring her to a secret hiding place—an...
(The entire section is 994 words.)
Summary and Analysis: Chapters 6-10
Susie remembers Ray Singh almost kissing her as they were both backstage at the school; they are interrupted when teachers talk to Ruth Connors about improper art she's drawn (nude women).
Ruth goes walking in the cornfield where Susie was killed; she and Ray make a connection. Mr. Salmon goes to talk to the Singhs. Mrs. Singh's beauty and silence makes him uncomfortable. She tells him to make sure who killed his daughter, and then to kill the person.
This chapter shows an array of marvelous accidental connections. When Susie hides backstage, Ray Singh does not just flirt with her, or stare at her. Instead, he speaks what most teenage girls wish to...
(The entire section is 736 words.)
Summary and Analysis: Chapters 11-16
Mr. Salmon regularly gets up very early and walks by Mr. Harvey's house. Susie watches Mr. Harvey's house from the afterlife, exploring his house in detail so that she sees the elaborate plans he's made to appear normal, such as setting a clock to remind him to pull the drapes. She also watches him remember his past killings and attempted killings, and finds the crawlspace where Mr. Harvey had hidden the body of animals he'd killed.
In the first week of July, Len Fenerman, who has been made chief of police, comes to the Salmon house to tell the Salmons there is no reason to continue investigating Mr. Harvey. This upsets Mr. Salmon, and that night he stayed up late. He sees a light...
(The entire section is 1048 words.)
Summary and Analysis: Snapshots, Chapters 17-20
Susie remembers getting a camera, and how she took many pictures of her family. This chapter contains a number of brief "snapshots" of different elements of her family and community:
In the summer of 1975, Mr. and Mrs. Salmon make love, then she leaves. Many neighborhood women leave food for the Salmons. Grandmother Lynn comes to stay with them. Lindsey visits the police station to find out how the investigation is going, but sees her mother's scarf and realizes Mrs. Salmon and Len Fenerman were having an affair. Buckley builds forts and dreams of being a superhero. In the fall of 1976, Len Fenerman visits the evidence room to try to get a clue about Mr. Harvey, but there's no...
(The entire section is 1114 words.)
Summary and Analysis: Chapters 21-23, Bones
Susie goes to watch Ray Singh, remembering her fears about her first kiss and talking the subject over with her grandmother. In the actual kiss, Ray surprised her in the hall at school, and it was over quickly. In contemporary time, Susie watches Ray and Ruth go back to the area near their hometown to see the sinkhole, where Susie's remains were thrown, that is going to be patched up. Susie watches them come back, watches them pass familiar landmarks and see people they used to know, like Joe Ellis.
Susie then follows Len Fenerman as he goes to the hospital where he presents the Salmons with Susie's charm, reviving their hope that Susie's killer might someday be found. After this,...
(The entire section is 919 words.)