The Lovely Bones | Study Guide

Alice Sebold

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The Lovely Bones | Chapter 13 | Summary

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Summary

With the start of the new school year, the members of the Salmon family take on new roles yet again. At school, Lindsey is seen now not only the sister of a murdered girl, but also as the daughter of a crackpot. Buckley Salmon is in kindergarten, where his teacher's especially gentle treatment sets him apart from his classmates.

Mr. Salmon is little more than an invalid on extended leave from work. Mrs. Salmon, transfixed by her affair with Len Fenerman, is little more than an automaton. She does the housework and childcare diligently, but her mind is always on Len Fenerman.

Out of the blue one day, Lindsey asks if her father still suspects Mr. Harvey. Mr. Salmon explains that although he's certain Mr. Harvey is guilty, there's no basis for an arrest. Lindsey asks whether there would be a basis if someone found something of Susie's in Mr. Harvey's house. When Mr. Salmon hesitates before answering, Lindsey knows that the same thought has occurred to him. She also knows that she'll have to be the person to collect the evidence for her father. She'll be taking on yet another role—a very dangerous one this time.

Grandma Lynn comes for Thanksgiving. With her usual intuition, she recognizes that something is different about Mrs. Salmon. "I have suspicions," she says, and insists on taking a walk with Mrs. Salmon. After a fumbling conversation, Grandma Lynn asks Mrs. Salmon to stop seeing the man she's involved with. Instead, Mrs. Salmon asks if she can stay in her late father's cabin for a while.

On their way home, mother and daughter pass Mr. Harvey's house, which "radiates malevolence." Grandma Lynn decides to let Mrs. Salmon have the keys to the cabin.

Analysis

Two important conversations take place in this chapter. The first is Mr. Salmon's conversation with Lindsey while she's shaving her legs for the first time.

It's a strange setting for a father-daughter conversation. Mr. Salmon realizes this himself. "Abigail should be doing this," he thinks as he gets Lindsey a new razor blade. There's also the fact that razor blades, and cutting, are still a dreadful topic in this family. Perhaps seeing the blood from accidentally cutting herself is what puts Mr. Harvey into Lindsey's mind. This is the first time that Mr. Salmon has shared his thoughts about Mr. Harvey in any detail.

Mr. Salmon never suggests that Lindsey break into Mr. Harvey's house, but Lindsey knows he wants her to do it. A father who was thinking straight would immediately, and convincingly, forbid his daughter to do anything that dangerous. But Mr. Salmon is unhinged by grief. Besides, the break-in will prove to be one of the most exciting parts in the book.

The second important conversation is the one between Mrs. Salmon and her mother, Grandma Lynn. Alice Sebold has hinted that this mother and daughter don't communicate well, but Grandma Lynn steps right up to her maternal responsibilities here. Their conversation is the book's first totally honest exchange between adults. The reader senses that it may also be the first honest exchange they've ever had. Though Mrs. Salmon still refuses to admit that there's anything between her and Len, the conversation has brought the two women closer.

When Grandma Lynn opens the conversation, she hopes to bring Mrs. Salmon back to a sense of her duty as a wife and mother. But when she feels the menace emanating from Mr. Harvey's house, she suddenly realizes that she needs to be more supportive. "Her child [is] living inside the middle of a ground zero" from which no motherly insight can rescue her. Grandma Lynn becomes a better mother when she resolves to help Mrs. Salmon escape from her life, even though the escape will hurt Mrs. Salmon's own children.

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