Selected Quotes

Selected Quotes: Preface, Chapters 1-5

1. "'Don't worry, Susie; he has a nice life. He's trapped in a perfect world.'"

Susie's father says this to her about the penguin when she worries about him. It turns out that she is right; small creatures, like herself, do get hurt when their world is turned upside down.

Chapter 1
1. "My name was Salmon, like the fish; first name, Susie. I was fourteen when I was murdered on December 6, 1973."

This line communicates several things, both literally and by implications. On the literal level, it tells readers who the narrator is, and how premature her death was. On the symbolic level, salmon are fish who swim upstream to spawn. Susie's entire story is going to be "upstream" and "against the current" of normal events.

2. "I knew he was going to kill me. I did not realize then that I was an animal already dying."

This line gives readers a hint of the pure tragedy of Susie's existence. Before she went with Mr. Harvey into the cornfield, she was not just alive, she was human. At a certain point, though, she was reduced to a dying animal, a horrific fate.

Chapter 2
1. "When I first entered heaven I thought everyone saw what I saw."

On the most basic level, this statement guides readers, cueing them that this is heaven and acknowledging that the story is being told from the afterlife, but indicating that Susie's—and the reader's—expectations of what heaven was going to be like are wrong. On a more ambitious level, it sums up the idea that each person's heaven, like each person's happiness, will be a little different.

2. "These were my dreams on earth."

What shapes heaven? Heaven takes on specialized individual layouts and populations according to the dreams the dead had dreamt on earth. Heaven is a place where people are reassured, where their desires are all okay, and, most importantly, where the desires people had felt on earth get a final chance to work out. In many ways, the story told in The Lovely Bones is one in which all the characters form an extension of this sort of heaven: Susie sees her sister married, her parents happy, her murderer dead, etc.

Chapter 3
1. "On my way out of Earth, I touched a girl named Ruth. She went to my school but we'd never been close. She was standing in my path that...

(The entire section is 992 words.)

Selected Quotes: Chapters 6-10

Chapter 6 Quotes:
1. "'When I was sure,' she said, 'I would find a quiet way, and I would kill him.'"

As an outsider in the community, Ruana Singh can speak what others cannot. Here she sums exactly what Mr. Salmon wants to.

2. "If the case was open—in his mind if not in the official files of the police—it was blank. There was nothing on the back of mine. There was nothing on his wife's."

Here Susie's thoughts trace the character of Len Fenerman, and how he preservers the memory of the dead by keeping their case files alive (blank). It is a way of giving them respect. It also relates to the theme of stories; their stories are not finished, and so can't be written yet.

Chapter 7
1. "Lindsay would tell the dead knight that a wife had to move on, that she couldn't be tapped for the rest of her life by a man who was frozen in time."

This is one of many instances in The Lovely Bones when a small domestic detail accumulates tremendous significance. The Salmons had learned to do grave rubbings on their honeymoon, so the family literally had death at its origins. The children tell a story about this knight in the rubbing, but it eventually becomes true about their father. With Susie's death, he is trapped in time, and his wife moves on, emotionally and literally.

2. "Had my brother really seen me somehow, or was he merely a little boy telling beautiful lies?"

This question haunts Susie. Is she really contacting the living at any point in the book? Or is their need to see her again conjuring up phantoms?

Chapter 8
1. "She had run without stopping, her white body thin and fragile and disappearing, while her son clung on to the amber necklace she had torn from her neck to hand to him. His father had watched the road. 'She's gone now, son,' he said. 'She won't be coming back.'"


(The entire section is 619 words.)

Selected Quotes: Chapters 11-16

Chapter 11
1. "What I think was hardest for me to realize was that he had tried each time to stop himself. He had killed animals, taking lesser lives to keep from killing a child."

This is one of the most surprising and emotionally brave moments in The Lovely Bones. Susie's thoughts don't apologize for Mr. Harvey's actions, or make his killing okay in any way. However, they do show an unexpected side: how hard he tries not to kill. This allows a reader to pity him without liking or approving of him.

Chapter 12
1. "My mother was, in her need, irresistible."

Susie's thoughts about her mother are childlike in many ways. She speaks of her mother in absolute terms. In truth, no one is irresistible, but Mrs. Salmon might seem that way because of the intensity of her need.

2. "He pushed her back into the stucco surface of the wall as they kissed, and my mother held onto him as if on the other side of his kiss there could be a new life."

A kiss can lead to a new life, in the sense that it can lead to sex, which can lead to pregnancy. Symbolically, though, Mrs. Salmon is trying to tap that energy for herself, so that she can live that new life, rather than giving birth to it.

Chapter 13
1. "They had never been close. They both knew it, but it wasn't something they acknowledged very much."

Susie's observation here refers to her mother and her mother's mother (Grandma Lynn). It is a good example of her honesty, and the novel's honesty about families. It also shows Grandma Lynn trying to do her duty despite the emotional closeness being gone.

2. "She dreamed of the country of India, where she had never been. There were orange traffic cones and beautiful lapis lazuli insects with mandibles of gold. A young girl was being led through the streets. She was taken to a pyre where she was wound in a sheet and placed up on a platform built from sticks. The bright fire that consumed her brought my mother into that deep, light dreamlike bliss. The girl was being burned a live, but, first, there had been her body, clean and whole."

Mrs. Salmon's dream points out one...

(The entire section is 909 words.)

Selected Quotes: Snapshots, Chapters 17-20

1. "I had rescued the moment by using my camera and in that way had found a way to stop time and hold it. No one could take that image away from me because I owned it."

Taking pictures is one of the many ways time is stopped in The Lovely Bones. It is tragic because one can't stop time, and it is ironic because Mr. Harvey also tries to freeze time and hold on to it, with his memories of women.

2. "I would lay these photographs down in my mind, those gathered from my constant watching, and I could trace how one thing—my death—connected these images to a single source."

Susie's observation spells out the theme of many effects rippling outward from a single causal event.

Chapter 17
1. "'Samuel Heckler,' my sister said, 'fixer of broken things.'"

While Lindsey is being somewhat ironic here, turning Samuel's role in her life into a title, she should also be taken quite literally. In this world, the only way to "fix" people who have been broken is to love them.

2. "The room was silent for a moment. What Samuel had said was true, of course, but it also pointed too clearly to a certain fact—that Lindsay and Buckley had come to live their lives in direct proportion to what effect it would have on a fragile father."

One of the challenges in this novel, and in the lives all people live alongside people that they care about, is how to speak the truth without speaking it too nakedly, and hurting those involved.

Chapter 18
1. "She had an expression of someone who was constantly on the lookout for something or someone who hadn't yet arrived."

This description of Ruth indicates her ongoing focus on another world than this one. It also foreshadows something that will happen soon thereafter in the novel: the person/thing who hasn't yet arrived at this time is Susie, who will...

(The entire section is 729 words.)

Selected Quotes: Chapters 21-23, Bones

Chapter 21
1. "'Apparently,' he said, 'the earth's throat burps.'"

A burp happens when something that has been put into the digestive process returns briefly to the outer world, in a way that makes a surprising noise. While this statement is being made about the sinkhole, it also refers to all the details of Susie's existence after death: the world "burps" her back up briefly.

2. "And I thought of the mix of air that was our front yard, which was daylight, a queasy mother and a cop—it was a convergence of luck that had kept my sister safe so far. Every day was a question mark."

In the same way that many results flow from a single cause, so this observation indicates that...

(The entire section is 656 words.)