The Lovely Bones | Study Guide

Alice Sebold

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The Lovely Bones | Snapshots | Summary



When Susie Salmon took pictures on Earth, she loved the way photos "rescued the moment" by "stopping and holding" time. Reading "Snapshots" is like looking through a bunch of pictures. Each scene is presented on its own; though the scenes progress in chronological order, there are no transitions between them. Each illuminates a brief but crucial step in the Salmon family's struggle toward understanding what's happened to them and feeling whole again over a period of four years.

For example, one summer day in 1975, Mrs. Salmon leaves for her father's old cabin in New Hampshire. In the fall of 1975, Grandma Lynn moves in with the family. In December 1975, Lindsey asks Hal Heckler to take her to the police station so she can find out what the police are doing to solve Susie's case. While she's there, Lindsey spots a scarf of her mother's on Len Fenerman's desk. Lindsey realizes that Len and her mother were having an affair. She's devastated by the news.

When Buckley Salmon turns 7, he builds a fort with the help of Lindsey, Samuel Heckler, and Hal. He spends long hours alone in there, reading superhero comic books and wishing that he were the Hulk or Spiderman. He won't let himself grieve; he models himself into "something stronger than a little boy."

By the fall of 1976, Len Fenerman has accepted the fact that Mr. Salmon was right about Mr. Harvey all along. The police dig up the cornfield again, and this time they find a Coke bottle with both Susie's and Mr. Harvey's fingerprints on it. But Mr. Harvey has disappeared.

Mrs. Salmon spends only one weekend in New Hampshire before deciding to drive to California, where she takes a job with a small winery. Finally on her own, she begins to grieve for Susie in a way she couldn't before.

Holiday, the Salmon family dog, dies of old age and joins Susie in heaven.


For much of the book, Len Fenerman has been a likable enough character. He makes a genuine effort to solve Susie Salmon's murder case. While the reader knows that Mr. Salmon is right about Mr. Harvey, Len Fenerman doesn't. He can't be blamed for wanting Mr. Salmon to leave the police and Mr. Harvey alone; no one wants outsiders telling them how to do their job, and Mr. Salmon has no evidence.

But Len can be blamed for not telling the Salmons when the police dig up evidence proving Mr. Harvey's guilt. Mr. Harvey may have vanished, but the Salmons would get some closure from hearing that the police know he murdered Susie. Len feels guilty about having been with Mrs. Salmon when the police were questioning Mr. Harvey. He should feel guilty! But even if he can't bear to confess his own negligence, he can still tell the Salmons that Mr. Salmon was right.

Instead, he does nothing for five years. When a Delaware detective calls him to ask for information about Susie's murder, the first thing Len says is, "It's a dead file." He's so unwilling to think about his mistake that he won't help a fellow detective who's investigating another girl's murder.

Alice Sebold takes time revealing Len's flaws. She makes it clear that the investigation is unusually challenging and that Len's unreciprocated love for Mrs. Salmon causes him to suffer. Len is hardly the stereotype of a corrupt cop. But there are degrees of corruption, and in this chapter, Len crosses the line from being a sympathetic character to being an unlikeable one.

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