The Lovely Bones Summary and Analysis: Snapshots, Chapters 17–20
by Alice Sebold

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Summary and Analysis: Snapshots, Chapters 17–20


Susie remembers getting a camera, and how she took many pictures of her family. This chapter contains a number of brief "snapshots" of different elements of her family and community:

In the summer of 1975, Mr. and Mrs. Salmon make love, then she leaves. Many neighborhood women leave food for the Salmons. Grandmother Lynn comes to stay with them. Lindsey visits the police station to find out how the investigation is going, but sees her mother's scarf and realizes Mrs. Salmon and Len Fenerman were having an affair. Buckley builds forts and dreams of being a superhero. In the fall of 1976, Len Fenerman visits the evidence room to try to get a clue about Mr. Harvey, but there's no trace. Despite this, he's sure Mr. Harvey was the murderer. Mrs. Salmon passes one winter in New Hampshire, then moves to California and gets work in a winery.

Each year a memorial is held in the cornfield, but it gets smaller over time. Ray Singh grows up to be handsome. By June 1977, when Susie would have graduated, Ruth and Ray have already left their town. Ruth moves to New York, where she walks around the city sensing traces of murder. Ray studies medicine and sometimes thinks of Susie's death. Mr. Harvey is living in the wilds of the Northeast. In December 1981 Len Fenerman gets a call from Delaware, where a detective investigating a girl's murder had found one of Susie's charms. Samuel's brother Hal has been asking for information through the social network of bikers, and finally gets a clue about a killer who built dollhouses, like Mr. Harvey. Years pass, and Susie watches them pass from heaven.

Susie's passion for taking pictures becomes a metaphor for several things in this chapter. It becomes one of the many ways that people in The Lovely Bones attempt to freeze time. It is how the chapter is organized: all brief flashes of things important to Susie. It also reminds readers that often the thing connecting photographs is not their content, but their connection to the photographer.

Chapter 17:

Lindsey graduates college at age twenty-one. She and Samuel were driving home on his motorcycle when the rain became too hard for them to keep going. They get off the bike and find an abandoned house in the woods, where they make love and Samuel proposes. They run home on foot to share the news with the Salmon family.

After watching this, Susie thinks about how she often "rode" trains in and out of Suburban Station in Philadelphia when she tired of watching her family. When she did this, she could feel the presence of other dead people watching over their living loved ones.

As Mr. Harvey dreams of houses, which symbolize his wish for a whole psyche, so Samuel and Lindsey find a house the same day that he proposes. It needs work, but so does Lindsey. When fixed, it will be perfect for them, as they are for each other; this serendipity indicates that there is meaning in everything, even accidents, and that human emotion does affect the world around it.

Chapter 18:

From heaven, Susie watches Ruth walk the streets of New York, marking the places where a woman was killed. This obsession makes Ruth a celebrity in heaven.

Buckley grows a wild garden mixing vegetables and flowers. When he raids Susie's closet for material to stake his tomatoes, he and his father (Mr. Salmon) clash over Mr. Salmon's extended mourning over Susie. As they argue, Mr. Salmon has a heart attack. Buckley prays to Susie to not let him die. As she watches this, Susie remembers her father taking care of Buckley, especially tucking him into bed, and then is met in heaven by her grandfather, who dances briefly with her and then vanishes.

Buckley's garden is another of the many metaphors in The Lovely Bones . It is an attempt to start something new, and the attempt nearly kills his father, who is still clinging hard to the past when Susie was alive. However, the mix of food and beauty is also like their lives—all of their lives: disorganized, not...

(The entire section is 1,114 words.)