The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold

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The Lovely Bones Summary

In The Lovely Bones, Susie Salmon is raped and murdered by her neighbor, Mr. Harvey. No one suspects him of the crime but Susie's father and sister. Mr. Harvey leaves town to escape being caught, but Susie's family takes many years to recover from her death.

  • Susie continues to watch over her family as a ghost. She watches as the family falls apart, her mother leaving home and her father and sister struggling to prove that their neighbor, Mr. Harvey, is the murderer.

  • Lindsey breaks into Mr. Harvey's house looking for evidence. This prompts him to pack up and leave town to avoid getting caught. Later, he's killed when a sharp icicle falls on his head.

  • After many years, the members of Susie's family are finally able to put her death behind them. When they do, Susie finally leaves them and proceeds to the afterlife. 

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Introduction

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.”

Summary

(Literary Newsmakers for Students)

Chapters 1-2

Fourteen-year-old Susie tells her story from heaven, where she exists after having been raped, murdered, and dismembered in a frozen cornfield by her neighbor, Mr. Harvey. She introduces her family—her father, Jack; mother, Abigail; sister, Lindsey; and brother, Buckley—the boy she likes, Ray Singh; the lead detective on her case, Len Fenerman; and her heavenly intake counselor, Franny. Susie begins to acclimate to her heaven and learns that it reflects her desires and wishes, and that everyone's heaven is slightly different. With Franny's help, she begins to understand what it means to be dead. She still wants to grow up and live, but now, since she cannot experience actual living, she must be content to watch what happens on earth.

Three days after Susie disappears, Detective Fenerman tells Jack the police have found a body part. Susie's parents have difficulty dealing with the horror of their daughter's disappearance—neither wants to believe that Susie is dead. In addition to the body part, the police find various objects belonging to Susie that indicate she was killed in the cornfield: a copy of the novel To Kill a Mockingbird, her biology notes, a love letter from Ray Singh, and her winter hat. This last item convinces the Salmons of Susie's death.

Ray Singh becomes the police's first suspect. Susie's family does not believe that...

(The entire section is 3,145 words.)