The Lovely Bones | Study Guide

Alice Sebold

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The Lovely Bones | Chapter 21 | Summary

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Summary

Susie Salmon visits Ray Singh, whom she has never stopped loving. He's about to drive Ruth to visit the sinkhole where Susie is buried, though neither of them knows that Susie's body is there.

Len Fenerman is on his way to the hospital, knowing Mrs. Salmon will be there. He hands the Pennsylvania charm over to Mr. Salmon and explains how it was found. Mrs. Salmon asks him to leave because she can't bear to hear any more about the case.

Susie spots Mr. Harvey driving an ancient, battered car toward his old house in Susie's neighborhood.

Ray and Ruth reach the sinkhole and eye it nervously before Ray wanders off to look at the house where the Flanagans once lived. As Ruth stands by the sinkhole, she suddenly sees Susie clearly. She's standing next to Ruth and looking at the spot where Mr. Harvey dumped her. For years, Ruth has been waiting for the moment she would see Susie, but all she can think of to say is, "Don't you want anything?" Susie vanishes, but Ruth's question stays with her.

At this point, Susie seems to be everywhere at once. She sees Lindsey, alone at home, and Mr. Harvey driving into their neighborhood. He approaches his old house, where a family with five little girls now lives. He spots Lindsey studying alone in her bedroom. As he stares at Lindsey, the ghosts of the women and animals he's killed stream out of his old house and fill his car. A police cruiser pulls up next to him. The officer suggests that Mr. Harvey move along, and he has no choice but to obey. Ruth is alone as Mr. Harvey's car passes by. She can see that the car is packed with bloody women's bodies. Overpowered by such close contact with so much death, Ruth collapses.

"That was the moment I fell to Earth," says Susie.

Analysis

This chapter opens with an extended conversation between Grandma Lynn and Susie Salmon about kissing. Susie has been so anxious about Ray Singh's kissing her that she has pestered both her parents, "over and over," for descriptions of their own first kiss. Discussing it with her grandmother, Susie learns that Grandma Lynn's own first kiss came from the father of a friend.

Adult readers can forget the immense importance young teens attach to the first kiss. When Susie died, Ray had only kissed her once; ever since then, she's been in a state of suspended desire to be kissed by him again.

Susie's eight years in heaven have been leading to this moment; Mr. Harvey has been plotting to murder Lindsey for a long time. The two subplots are about to converge. Like a master puppeteer, Alice Sebold has a lot of strings to pull.

She nicely juxtaposes two kinds of tension. Watching Mr. Harvey drive toward his old neighborhood wakes feelings of dread as well as a sickening sympathy for this aging murderer. Watching Ray and Ruth poke around the sinkhole of the Flanagans' deserted house evokes a sense of indefinable unease. A sinkhole is a strangely powerful plot element, at once fascinating and nauseating. The fact that Susie's bones are buried here adds an extra boost of squeamish horror.

When Susie's soul plummets—literally—into the center of all these emotions, it lands with tremendous force. Whatever the reader has been expecting, it wasn't this.

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