illustration of Susie in the clouds with her charm bracelet above her head

The Lovely Bones

by Alice Sebold

Start Free Trial

Summary and Analysis: Chapters 11–16

Download PDF PDF Page Citation Cite Share Link Share

Chapter 11:

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 moving in the cornfield and goes to investigate with a baseball bat. However, it isn't Mr. Harvey there, but Clarissa , who is meeting Brian Nelson. Brian thinks Clarissa is being threatened, and clubs Mr. Salmon repeatedly as Susie watches helpless from heaven.

Both Mr. Harvey and Mr. Salmon lead lives of unnatural regularity related to violence. Mr. Harvey must regulate his behavior in order to cover the fact that he kills. Mr. Salmon tries to regulate his, to return to a normal life, but cannot. Susie's death haunts him.

Chapter 12:

Mr. Salmon's knee was damaged so badly that it required surgery to replace the kneecap. The other Salmons are awakened by the police sirens outside, and only then realize he's left the house. Lindsey calls Samuel to get a ride to the hospital.

When Abigail Salmon gets to the hospital, Len Fenerman explains what happened. They go outside to smoke, and Abigail kisses Len, beginning an affair with him. When Susie sees the kiss, she remembers how her mother took care of Susie and Lindsey at bedtime and told them stories. Susie remembers the signs of her mother losing contact with her inner self, and falling out of love with her father.

This chapter develops two different ways that people can be damaged, ways that are parallel but not the same. Jack Salmon is damaged physically by a baseball bat's impact. It is sudden and fierce. Abigail Salmon is damaged emotionally by slowly losing contact with her innermost self.

Chapter 13:

Lindsey goes back to junior high in the fall, where she is now known as the sister of the dead girl, and the daughter of a crazy man due to her father's actions. Mr. Salmon slowly recovers from his knee surgery, and returns to work in November. He grows apart from his wife emotionally, but grows closer to Lindsey and Buckley in different ways, including teaching Lindsey to shave. Together they plan for Lindsey to break in to Mr. Harvey's house.

Grandma Lynn visits for Thanksgiving. She recognizes that her daughter Abigail is having an affair, and asks her to end it.

This chapter tracks the emotional ripples spreading outward from Susie's death. It changes Lindsey's social identity, not once but twice. It changes the emotional structure of the Salmon family, and Mr. Salmon must step in to guide his daughter where his wife should. Finally, when Grandma Lynn visits, she sees that her daughter is having an affair, which forces her to speak more bluntly than had been their custom.

Chapter 14:

Lindsey watches Mr. Harvey's house for a week, then breaks in. She gets away, but Mr. Harvey sees her. When she leaves, she takes a drawing with her, which she gives to her father.

As Lindsey's searching the house, Susie reviews Mr. Harvey's past: how he went to public places to search for victims, how he constructed his cover stories, etc. In heaven, Susie calls the names of all of Mr. Harvey's victims, and gives the dates. One of them, Flora Hernandez, meets Susie in heaven, and tells her that the other girls will be there soon.

This chapter follows Lindsey's path after her sister's death: further away from the social norm, until she becomes the only girl on a boys' soccer team—and someone who breaks into a killer's house. Susie's plunge into Mr. Harvey's house and memories shows how intimately they have been linked by his violence, both Susie and Mr. Harvey and Susie with the other victims.

Chapter 15:

Mr. Harvey remembers stealing things with his mother, something they enjoyed and shared. He also remembers her advice about putting the past behind him, and a time when drunk men who wanted to rape his mother trapped them in a truck and they had to flee.

In the present, Mr. Harvey reports his house has been broken in to. The officers search his house, and find it weird, but accept his explanation as to why he was drawing the place where Susie was killed. Abigail Salmon continues to meet with Len, to get some emotional release and escape from her situation.

The past and the present are juxtaposed in this chapter to show Mr. Harvey's current cunning, and the origins of it, and of his emotional upset. When he was young he was desperately upset by someone (the three men) trying to break in to his private place. When Lindsey does so now, he is traumatized. His emotional construct starts falling apart.

Chapter 16:

Ruth goes to see Ray Singh. They had begun kissing one another as an experiment, and are now involved emotionally. It is December 6. The two go to the cornfield for a memorial. Others see them, and there is a spontaneous community gathering. The Salmon family arrives late. Mr. Salmon asks their neighbor Mr. O'Dwyer to sing, and everyone joins in.

Susie remembers the summer nights that her father referred to when he asked Mr. O'Dwyer to sing, and how her mother would see her standing in the rain and tell Susie that she looked invincible.

In many ways, this chapter shows an ideal community response to tragedy. The memorial service is spontaneous, and heartfelt, and works directly from those memories of those closest to Susie to refer to things she loved, thereby keeping a real memory of her alive. However, Susie's memory also points out a deep and painful irony, namely the times when her mother would say she was invincible. Clearly, she was not.

See eNotes Ad-Free

Start your 48-hour free trial to get access to more than 30,000 additional guides and more than 350,000 Homework Help questions answered by our experts.

Get 48 Hours Free Access

Summary and Analysis: Chapters 6–10


Summary and Analysis: Snapshots, Chapters 17–20