The Lovely Bones | Study Guide

Alice Sebold

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The Lovely Bones | Chapter 17 | Summary



Lindsey is now 21. Although Susie Salmon no longer mourns the fact that she'll never get to do the things Lindsey does, she still likes hanging around with her sister. She's on hand for Lindsey's and Samuel Heckler's graduation, and she's with them later the same day as they ride Samuel's motorcycle back to the Salmons' house.

Eight miles from the turnoff to the house, a driving rain forces Lindsey and Samuel to pull off the road. He parks the motorcycle, and the two of them take refuge in the underbrush. They haven't gone far when they come upon an old abandoned house. It looks spooky, but it's dry, so they walk inside. As Samuel says, the house is a "gorgeous old wreck." He's entranced by its period details.

At home, Mr. Salmon is looking at photos Susie took of her mother. This is something he's been doing a lot recently. In the process, he's fallen back in love with Mrs. Salmon. He has also recognized the gradual change that marriage produced in his wife—the mask that seemed to grow over her face as time passed. "Did I do that to you?" he asks an imaginary Mrs. Salmon.

Back in the abandoned house, Samuel asks Lindsey to marry him. He wants them to live in this house and to restore it. Lindsey accepts. In heaven, Susie is so happy that she runs around screaming. The motorcycle won't start, so Lindsey and Samuel run the eight miles home to share their news.

Though she's delighted about Lindsey and Samuel, Susie is becoming less interested in endlessly watching her old life. Instead, she takes long train rides. After seeing Lindsey and Samuel reach home, Susie boards a train. She rides until there's only one image in her mind: the moment when she held the bottle while her father raised the tiny ship inside it.


The discovery of the old house marks a clear turning point in The Lovely Bones. By restoring it, Lindsey and Samuel Heckler will help restore the Salmon family as well. What's more, they'll be fixing up the kind of house Susie dreamed of when she was alive. On Earth, Susie never liked living in a modern development where boring houses shared the same floor plan. The old house has all the character Susie—and Samuel—could want. Samuel, too, has always dreamed of living somewhere other than the suburbs.

Though Susie Salmon has made her peace with not being allowed to grow up, she hasn't stopped worrying about her family. She's noticed, though, that they don't think about her as often. "It was no longer a Susie-fest on Earth." As she watches Lindsey and Samuel run home, Susie sees that Lindsey is no longer suffering from the effects of the murder. "The wound had been closing, closing—braiding into a scar for eight long years." With the knowledge that Lindsey and Samuel will marry and live in this wonderful house, Susie can, in a sense, drop them off to start their new lives.

When Lindsey and Samuel announce their engagement, Buckley Salmon sees Susie for an instant. He's almost as old now as Susie was when she died, which may be why he specifically notices her childlike shape. This sighting is relevant because at the end of the chapter, Susie remembers helping her father build ships in bottles. She recalls the moment "when the world in the bottle depended, solely, on me."

For eight years, Susie has had the feeling that her family depends on her to help them heal. But a ship in a bottle is a very small space, and Susie's sense of responsibility for her former world has been dwindling. Lindsey is set to sail forth into a new world. However, the fact that Buckley can still see Susie means that her work isn't completely done.

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