In this novel, the setting, the time and place of the events, is very important, and this setting is one of the most unusual I've seen. Most of the events happen on earth, but Susie tells what is happening from heaven. There are a few scenes that occur in heaven, but they expand the story rather than propel the plot forward. The events that occur on earth move the plot forward.
As far as the time of the novel, we immediately know it takes place in the 1970s because we are given the specific date of December 6, 1973. In telling the story, Susie flashes back into the past to bring the reader important information we need to understand what happened prior to the December 6th date. Susie also refers to the future and throughout the book, she shifts among the past, present, and future.
The setting is tied to the theme of loss and grief that Susie's family feels after her death. It also refers to the coming-of-age of the characters in the novel. Susie can't move on in heaven until she knows her family is going to be all right. Her sister and brother must come to terms with Susie's death as well as her father and mother.
The function of setting varies from work to work. It may be minimal, unobtrusive, conventional, and non-influential (as in early Greek romance) or purely decorative - pretty pictures without a burden of meaning (see Rasselas); or causal even determinative (as in Zola's Nana); or reflect states of mind (almost any gothic novel); or be fraught with symbolism (Mann's The Magic Mountain). The possibilities are endless. What matters is the reader's willingness to test for connections between setting, action, passion, and thought.
do your own homework
well an important setting of the lovely bones, is Susies heaven. Because it is pretty much acts as a metaphor of her mind, her acceptance etc. the more she accepts her death the more her heaven expands, which allows her to truely accept it by meeting mr harveys other vitims. it shows that taking that first step of acceptance is one of the most important, because it allows you to truely start to get over the death and move on with your life.
another way that heaven is used is by Susie being able to watch her family, and by seeing their acceptance can she accept it herself, and once she sees her family are going to be alright she is able to let go and move on into 'wide wide heaven'
(also, in the begining susies kind of uses the ability to watch her family, to , in a way , try and live through her sister)
hope it helped..i tend to ramble and go off in a tangent about something totally unrelated^^