The Lovely Bones | Study Guide

Alice Sebold

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The Lovely Bones | Chapter 9 | Summary



Things become a little better for the Salmons when Grandma Lynn, Mrs. Salmon's mother, arrives for Susie Salmon's memorial service. She loves her cocktails, and she's always trying to get her granddaughters to diet, but she brightens the mood. She even persuades Mrs. Salmon to have a makeover. Entranced by the sight, Lindsey asks for some makeup tips, too. When she sees her transformed reflection in a mirror, she sees the adult she's becoming—an adult who can take care of herself.

On the morning of the memorial, Lindsey steals into Susie's room to borrow a dress. Grandma Lynn comes in to help her choose something. As they search, Lindsey asks about a conversation she overheard the night before: her mother told Grandma Lynn that Mr. Salmon thinks he knows who killed Susie. Grandma Lynn dodges the question.

Lindsey's boyfriend, Samuel Heckler, meets her at the church. Many of Susie's classmates come to the service, including Ruth. Ray Singh stays at home, memorializing Susie in his thoughts. Gazing at her school picture, Ray realizes that he's looking at an image that no longer represents Susie to him. "I was in the air around him, I was in the cold mornings he had now with Ruth." Ray tucks the photo into a huge volume of Indian poetry where he and his mother like to press flowers.

At the service, Grandma Lynn whispers to Lindsey that the man Mr. Salmon suspects of the murder is standing by the door. Lindsey thinks she recognizes him. "Their eyes locked. Then she passed out." Mr. Harvey slips out of the church and disappears.


Even among so many colorful characters in The Lovely Bones, Grandma Lynn stands out. Alice Sebold seems to have a special fondness for Grandma Lynn, portraying her as someone who seems, somehow, livelier and spunkier than most people. Though she and her Mrs. Salmon have little in common, Grandma Lynn finds the perfect thing to say as she begins Mrs. Salmon's makeover. "Susie was a good girl, honey. Just like you." It's the first time since her arrival that anyone has mentioned Susie's name. What a kind way to bring her into focus! Without pausing, Grandma Lynn orders, "Let me have a look at those bags under your eyes."

With uncanny perception, Grandma Lynn blares out, "Lindsey Salmon, you have a boyfriend"—another wonderful icebreaker. As Susie Salmon puts it, she's "dragging the light back in." The family has been drifting apart since the murder. This is the first night in two months that Mrs. Salmon has made dinner, and she relaxes enough to leave the dirty dinner dishes in the sink overnight.

The Salmons haven't talked about Susie much. Lindsey's been staying in her room whenever she's home. When she tells her grandmother that she's forgotten what Susie's neck looked like, the reader suspects that it may be the first time she's mentioned her sister in days. Lindsey then says that she needs to look pretty for the funeral—a very human wish, but one it would have been hard to express to her parents. Grandma Lynn makes things even better by saying, "You are pretty."

Lindsey is amazed. Her grandmother never compliments people. Again, Grandma Lynn has found the perfect thing to say. She's just what the family needs at that moment. She's also a welcome addition to the book. Without Grandma Lynn to lighten things up, the sadness might be too much for readers to bear.

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