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

The Lovely Bones

by Alice Sebold

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In The Lovely Bones, does the family ever find Susie's body?

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In Chapter 21, Ruth and Ray visit the sinkhole the day before the Flanagan family has arranged for it to be filled with concrete. In a chilling and meaningful moment, Ruth wonders out loud to Ray whether Susie's body was dumped there. Susie cheers in heaven at Ruth's correct guess, yet in the end, her body is never discovered. Even if the sinkhole was not planning to be filled, objects discarded in the landfill are considered irretrievable.

This incidence is not the only case in which the sinkhole contains significant meaning. It is linked to Susie even before she is murdered. Susie's father took her to the landfill to dispose of things in the years leading up to her death. In Chapter 4, the scene in which Mr. Harvey takes the safe containing Susie's body to the landfill features tragic irony. Mrs. Flanagan asks him: “What do you have in here? A dead body?” Mrs. Flanagan does not realize how macabre her joke is, as she does not have the same insight that the reader does.

When the author establishes that Susie's body will never be found, the story highlights the injustice of unsolved homicide. It becomes clear that The Lovely Bones is not about seeking closure and justice, but the Salmon family coming to terms with the loss of Susie. The sinkhole thus represents the grief, despair, and horror Susie and her family must pull themselves out of, through emotional struggle and familial love.

Personally, the ending of The Lovely Bones was a somber reminder of how many murders in this world go unsolved and the ability for killers to escape persecution. It made me wonder how many unsolved murders have come close to being solved, like Susie's.

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No. Towards the end of the book, the reader is led to believe her body is about to be discovered when Ruth and Ray are near the landfill where Susie's body was dumped. But the bones never are found (except the elbow bone, which is found soon after her death).

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