The Lovely Bones | Study Guide

Alice Sebold

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The Lovely Bones | Chapter 20 | Summary



When Chapter 20 opens, several things are happening at once. Mr. Harvey walks toward the Connecticut shack where he murdered a young waitress a few years earlier. When he gets close enough, he realizes that her grave is empty; someone has dug her up and removed the body.

Len Fenerman holds Susie's Pennsylvania keystone charm, which was found near the murdered girl in Connecticut. Returning it is against the rules, but he wants Mr. Salmon to have it. Maybe, he thinks, it will help Mr. Salmon recover faster.

The rest of the family is at home, but Mrs. Salmon isn't ready to see the house yet. She doesn't think she can bear to stay in Pennsylvania because everything she sees reminds her of Susie Salmon. When she decides to stay for just a few days, she feels a rush of relief.

Yet back in Mr. Salmon's hospital room where she watches Mr. Salmon sleep, she realizes that she's never stopped loving him. When Mr. Salmon wakes up, they have a heart-to-heart talk about Susie and the pain they've suffered. They're crying together as the chapter ends.


Chapter 20 is a bridge between Mrs. Salmon's return to the East Coast and Susie Salmon's wild adventure in Chapter 21. Much of the chapter consists of Mrs. Salmon's thoughts. As with most people's thoughts, hers are rambling. Her tea tastes metallic; maybe that man in the restaurant is Susie's murderer; she'll say goodbye as soon as Mr. Salmon wakes up.

As Mrs. Salmon watches Mr. Salmon sleep, it occurs to her that she may have been the weaker person in her marriage and Mr. Salmon the stronger one. "This revelation sent her reeling." Then she, too, falls asleep. When Mr. Salmon wakes up, he watches his wife sleep. "This time, despite all, he was going to let her be who she was." As Mrs. Salmon agrees to stay in Pennsylvania rather than return to California, both of them are learning how to live with their grief over Susie's murder.

The two scenes that move Mr. Harvey toward Susie's town are much more interesting, but they're brief. More focus on them would have helped the chapter. Mr. Harvey's plan to murder Lindsey is a lot more suspenseful than whether Mrs. Salmon will stay in Pennsylvania.

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