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

The Lovely Bones

by Alice Sebold

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Summary and Analysis: Chapters 21–23, Bones

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Chapter 21:

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, Susie follows Mr. Harvey, who is driving a "patchwork car" back towards their town. As he drives, he remembers some of the girls he killed, but they all blur together. She watches him come back into the old neighborhood, nearing their house where Lindsey is home alone. As he gets close to the house, he is stopped by policemen, who received a call about a suspicious vehicle. He drives away, to near the sinkhole, where he and Ruth pass one another. When they do, Susie falls to Earth.

Many elements of the past have been coming back together over the past few chapters, and they come together here, literally and symbolically. Mr. Harvey's car is patchwork, like the stories he tells; he's coming back to kill Lindsey and set his life right. Ray and Susie come back to see the sinkhole filled in (a known emptiness filled in), but the earth is "burping," and at the chapter's end, Susie is "burped" back into the world of the living.

Chapter 22:

Ruth collapses to the road, but it is Susie's soul that is inside her body. Ray helps Susie/Ruth back to her feet. (Ruth's soul flees to heaven for a time, where she is greeted as a hero by women throwing rose petals.) While Susie is in Ruth's body, she gets Ray to kiss her for real, and then to make love to her. As they do, Susie shares details from things they experience, to prove that it is her (not Ruth), and tells Ray a little about heaven. She tells him to read Ruth's journals. Susie tries to call her family on the phone, to talk to them, but can't make noise. Susie realizes she's out of Ruth's body, and that Ruth is back in it. Susie goes back to heaven.

This chapter shows things working out as they should. This started in the previous chapter, when Mr. Harvey was prevented from going all the way back to the Salmon house: in an ideal world, communities would always spy suspicious individuals. Likewise, in an ideal world, heroes would be welcomed in heaven (as Ruth is), and lovers would get another chance, as Susie does.

Chapter 23:

Ray reads Ruth's journals. Jack leaves the hospital. Ruanna Singh makes many pies, and then drops one by the Salmons' house. Hal gives Buckley a set of drums. Grandma Lynn gets water for everyone playing music, and as she does, she spies a young girl "wearing the clothes of her youth" in the garden. Abigail comes home, and says to her daughter Susie that she loves her.

Ruana and Ray Singh drop by to visit. While they are there, Samuel tells about the house that he and Lindsey found the day he proposed. Ray tells him that Ruth's father owns it. Samuel says, "My God," and Susie disappears from the house.

The extended Salmon family continues to heal emotionally in this chapter. Buckley's drums are a way for him to pound away his existing anger. Susie's mother tells her that she loves her, healing a long gaping wound. Finally, the connection to Ruth will allow Lindsey and Samuel to have their dream house, and with it their loving dream life. At that point, Susie vanishes; she is emotionally fulfilled and released by their happiness.


Susie is now more distant from her family, but she does watch from time to time. She sees Samuel and Lindsey restore the house, and Lindsey become pregnant. She sees Ray become a doctor, one who calls Ruth when he needs to reconnect with his experiences of the supernatural. Ruth is trying to learn to write, to capture her experiences.

Susie watches the world from heaven with her grandfather. She watches Mr. Harvey, now grown old. He tries to capture a teenage girl at a bus station, but an icicle falls and he falls in a ravine and dies.

Susie watches her sister Lindsey grow a garden and name her new baby Abigail Suzanne, after her mother and dead sister. A man finds Susie's charm bracelet after the sinkhole is bulldozed, and says, "This little girl's grown up by now." Susie's last words are "Almost. Not quite. I wish you all a long and happy life."

This chapter concludes the book with several final symbolic and/or meaningful moments. First, Lindsey and Samuel name their daughter after Mrs. Salmon and Susie, ensuring that these loved ones will never be forgotten. Second, Mr. Harvey is killed, but almost casually. He no longer matters. Third, Susie's charm bracelet, lost when she was killed, is found, and this leads her to make the final statement: she is almost grown up now, but will still be growing even in heaven. Even after death.

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Summary and Analysis: Snapshots, Chapters 17–20