The Lovely Bones

“infobox Book “
name The Lovely Bones
orig title
author Alice Sebold
cover_artist Yoori Kim (design); Daniel Lee (photo-illustration)
country USA
language English
genre Literary fiction
publisher Little, Brown
release_date 2002
media_type Print (Hardback and Paperback); audio book
pages 328
isbn ISBN 0-316-66634-3

The narrator of The Lovely Bones, Susie Salmon, is a normal fourteen year-old girl. She has just received her first kiss and is looking forward to going to high school next year. She is on her way home from school when she is stopped by a man who wants to show her something in the cornfield. Susie thinks she can trust this man because he is a neighbor who knows her parents. Unfortunately, this man, George Harvey, is a serial killer who rapes and murders Susie.
Susie is quickly taken to heaven, where she meets Franny, her guide in the afterlife. Heaven can be whatever she wants, and Susie chooses to create her heaven in the image of her hometown high school. However, the only thing Susie truly wants is to be back on Earth, growing up with the people she loves. This is the one thing Susie cannot have in heaven, but there is one way Susie can keep up with her family. From heaven, Susie can look down and watch her family as they struggle with their own feelings about her murder.
The Salmon family is forever changed as a result of Susie’s murder. Susie watches as her parents drift apart and her siblings and friends grow up and have experiences Susie can only witness. Her mother, Abigail, wants to run away from her feelings, whereas her father, Jack, wants to confront those feelings head on. Jack Salmon, unsatisfied with Len Fenerman’s investigation, begins his own investigation of Susie’s murder. This investigation leads Jack to suspect George Harvey. However, police cannot arrest Harvey because there is no evidence linking Harvey to Susie.
Susie follows her sister Lindsey’s life from heaven. Lindsey experiences major life milestones witnessed vicariously by Susie. Susie cannot herself grow up, but can have a basic understanding of the process by watching her sister. She watches as Lindsey grows into a strong young woman who also shares her father’s determination to find Susie’s killer. Lindsey learns from Grandma Lynn the name of the man her father believes killed Susie. Lindsey begins watching Harvey’s house, committing his schedule to her memory, and waiting for her opportunity.
Family members are not the only people affected by Susie’s death. Ray Singh, the first and only boy Susie kisses, is at first a suspect. He is quickly ruled out by police, by remains haunted by the memory of Susie’s death. Ruth Connors, an unpopular girl in Susie’s class, is also impacted by Susie’s death. She is the last person Susie touches as her spirit leaves Earth. As a result, Ruth becomes obsessed with death and even begins seeing the dead on Earth. Ray and Ruth become forever linked in their shared grief and understanding.
George Harvey, Susie’s killer, is also watched by Susie. In heaven, Susie meets and learns the stories of all of his victims. She sees Harvey hide her body, lie to her father and the police, and run from the crimes he has committed. Susie wants to help the living apprehend her killer, but can only watch as the police and her family try to gather evidence and find her murderer.
Through the experiences of the Salmon family in The Lovely Bones, readers can examine their own feelings and reactions to loss and mourning. Can something good come from a horrible tragedy? Can healing come from a place of tremendous violence and despair?

Major Characters

Susie Salmon

  • Fourteen year-old murder victim
  • Watches her family and those around her in the afterlife
  • Attempts to reveal her killer and comfort her family
  • Looks forward to HighSchool
  • the oldest of her family
  • crush on Ray Singh
  • Died on December 6, 1973, and lived in Philadelphia

Jack Salmon

  • Husband of Abigail, Father of Susie, Lindsey, and Buckley
  • Determined to find the killer of his daughter
  • Cannot let go of his dead daughter, no matter the impact on his marriage and surviving children
  • Believed Mr.Harvey was the one who killed his daughter
  • Abigail Salmon

    • Wife of Jack, mother of Susie, Lindsey, and Buckley
    • Desires to be more than a mother after her daughter’s death
    • Abandons her family after her daughter’s death and goes to California to work in a winery
    • Has a brief affair with Detective Len Fenerman

    Lindsey Salmon

  • Susie’s sister who played soccer, and was a year younger than Susie
  • Determined to find her sister’s killer but does not want to be defined by her sister’s murder
  • Watched by Susie. Susie lives and grows vicariously by watching Lindsey’s life
  • Buckley Salmon

    • Susie and Lindsey’s little brother
    • Angry and isolated after being abandoned by Abigail
    • Sees Susie as he grows up

    Grandma Lynn

  • Abigail’s mother who loves life, shopping, and cocktails
  • Moves in with the Salmons after Abigail leaves her family
  • George Harvey

    • A serial killer who rapes and murders Susie
    • Haunted by dreams of Lindsey
    • Suffers from “not still” dreams before committing murders
    • Saves a memento from each victim

    Len Fenerman

  • Detective investigating the murder of Susie Salmon
  • Develops feelings for Abigail
  • Feels As though he has failed to find Susie’s murderer George Harvey and loving Susie’s mother, Abigail.
  • Ray Singh

    • The only boy Susie kisses before she is killed
    • Remains connected to Susie, even after her death

    Ruth Connors

  • The last person Susie touches as her soul rushes away from Earth
  • Can see the dead and know the cause of death
  • Writes poetry for the dead
  • Has an obsession with the death of Susie
  • Chapter Summaries

    Chapter 1

    Susie Salmon, the fourteen year old narrator, is murdered on December 6, 1973. Her murderer is Mr. Harvey, a neighbor on her street liked by both her parents.
    Mr. Harvey approaches Susie in the cornfield as she is taking a shortcut home. She has never spoken to him before, but does not feel uncomfortable because her parents know him. He asks her to come see something he has built. He then calls her Susie, which strikes her as odd because she never told him her name.
    He tells her he built a hiding place in the ground, and he and Susie crawl into the hiding place. Susie notices a mirror, razor, and shaving cream in the dug-out, which causes her to wonder about him. He tells her he built the dug-out as a clubhouse for the kids in the neighborhood. Susie does not believe him and feels sorry for him.
    Mr. Harvey asks Susie if she has a boyfriend. She tries to leave, but he will not let her. He knocks her to the ground and starts kissing her. She begs him to stop and he stuffs her hat into her mouth. He rapes her. Afterwards, he tells her to get up and tell him she loves him. He takes out a knife and kills her.

    Chapter 2

    Susie’s heaven is much like a high school, both in architecture and the activities. Everyone “lives” in their own version of heaven and meet when their versions overlap.
    Susie meets her roommate, Holly, who is implied to be Vietnamese-American.
    Franny is Susie’s intake counselor. She helps the girls adjust to the afterlife. She tells the girls they can have whatever they desire in heaven. Susie’s heaven begins to look more and more like her hometown.
    Detective Fenerman tells Susie’s father they have only found a body part. Susie watches her parents mourn.
    Lindsey, Susie’s sister, asks to know what part was found. Susie’s dad tells her the Gilbert’s dog found her elbow. Lindsey vomits.
    The police search the cornfield, and find where the dug-out has been filled with dirt. Susie watches all this, but cannot tell them where her body is.
    The police find her book and notes. They also find a love letter from Ray Singh, the first and only boy Susie kissed. Ray becomes the first suspect, but is quickly ruled out. However, gossip spreads about him at school and he is shunned.
    The police bring her hat to the Salmons and tell them she was gagged with the hat. This evidence and the large amount of blood found lead the police to believe she has been murdered.
    Susie worries about Lindsey as she returns to school. Lindsey is very distant to the people who reach out to her. She says she will not break and turns to exercise to deal with her pain and rage.

    Chapter 3

    Susie also watched Ruth, the last person she touched as her soul was leaving. Ruth is a studious, unpopular girl who begins writing poetry and smoking pot after her vision of Susie in the cornfield.
    Susie breaks through by accident on December 23, 1973. Her father is cleaning his den and remembering building ships in a bottle with Susie. He smashes all of the bottles. He goes into Susie’s untouched bedroom and cries on her bed. Buckley comes into the room and crawls in bed with his father.

    Chapter 4

    Mr. Harvey carries Susie’s body back to his house and puts her body in the garage. A realtor later tells prospective buyers Susie’s blood stain is an oil stain.
    Susie is not Mr. Harvey’s first victim. He throws her body into a sinkhole in the neighborhood. Her body is hidden in a metal safe.
    Mr. Harvey keeps Susie’s charm bracelet, but later throws it into an area that is being made into a lake. He keeps her favorite charm, a Pennsylvania keystone.
    Susie’s father sees Mr. Harvey building a mat tent. He helps Mr. Harvey build the new tent. Susie tries to get her father’s attention, and he begins to wonder about Mr. Harvey. He asks Harvey if he knows something and Harvey tells him that he doesn’t and that he cannot help him.

    Chapter 5

    Her father begins his own investigation of the murder. He calls Len Fenerman about Harvey. Fenerman is told by Harvey the tent is a wedding tent built in memory of his dead wife Leah. Mr. Salmon remembers being told her name was Sophie. He writes down these names, a list of the dead.
    Samuel Heckler brings Lindsey a Christmas gift. She has a crush on him and kisses him in the kitchen after he gives her half of a heart on a chain. He wears the other half.

    Chapter 6

    Ruth begins walking in the cornfield and Ray joins her. They agree Susie is in heaven.
    Mr. Salmon visits Ray’s mother, who agrees to let him speak to Ray. He tells her George Harvey killed Susie, but there is no proof. She tells him she would kill Harvey.

    Chapter 7

    Buckley tells his friend he sees Susie. She wonders if he really saw her or if it was just his imagination.

    Chapter 8

    Harvey begins to have “not still” dreams about women and children. These dreams disturb him.

    Chapter 9

    Susie’s grandmother arrives for the memorial service in February, which brings fun and life into the house again. Grandma Lynn helps Lindsey find an outfit from Susie’s closet to wear to the memorial. Grandma Lynn also points out George Harvey at the funeral and tells Lindsey who her father suspects of killing Susie. She sees him and faints.

    Chapter 10

    Ruth and Lindsey meet at a camp for gifted students. Samuel is also at the camp, where he and Lindsey spend most of the summer finding places to make out.
    The annual competition is changed from building a better mousetrap to how to commit the perfect murder. Lindsey pretends having to plan a murder does not bother her.
    Susie believes the perfect weapon to use in a murder is an icicle because the evidence melts away
    Lindsey and Samuel have sex.

    Chapter 11

    Jack begins walking the dog every morning in order to watch Harvey and look for evidence.
    Harvey knows he is being watched by the police. He sets clocks to remind him to stay on schedule. He counts the items he has taken from each of his victims to calm him. Susie watches him and knows the story of each victim, but Harvey has forgotten the names.
    Harvey has killed neighborhood pets and covered their bodies in quicklime and counts the bones. He does this to stop himself from killing children.
    Len visits Jack to ask him to stop calling the station about Harvey. Abigail agrees with Len, and Jack realizes he doesn’t have her support.
    One night, Jack follows a light to the cornfield, thinking it is Harvey. He brings a bat with him, intending to kill him. Clarissa, Susie’s best friend, is in the field waiting for her boyfriend. Jack attacks Clarissa, thinking she is Harvey. Brian, Clarissa’s boyfriend, knocks Jack out, saving Clarissa. Susie sees most things.

    Chapter 12

    Susie watches her father being tended to at the hospital.
    Len tells Abigail what happened, and it is apparent that Len and Abigail have feelings for each other. They kiss outside.
    Samuel’s older brother Hal takes Lindsey to the hospital. He sees Abigail and Len.

    Chapter 13

    Susie continues to watch over her family as Buckley enters kindergarten. He is different and separate from the rest of his fellow students because of Susie’s murder. He becomes attached to his teacher because Abigail becomes preoccupied with her feelings for Len.
    Jack teaches Lindsey to shave her legs because Abigail is too distracted. He talks to Lindsey about his suspicions about Harvey.
    Grandma Lynn talks to Abigail about her marriage. She tells Abigail her father had an affair and asks Abigail to stop seeing Len. She denies being involved with anyone. She asks to use the family cabin so that she can have time to think.

    Chapter 14

    Lindsey begins watching Harvey’s house. Harvey is aware the family is watching him, but knows the police have no evidence on him. He begins following school groups at the park.
    Lindsey breaks into Harvey’s house, looking for the evidence needed for the police to make an arrest. Susie is watching and Lindsey feels her presence. Harvey’s house is similar in lay-out to the Salmon house, but is sparsely furnished. Lindsey sees Susie running and chases her through the house. Susie starts calling out the names of Harvey’s many victims.
    Susie follows Lindsey upstairs. Harvey enters the house as Lindsey finds a drawing of the dug-out built by Harvey. She rips the drawing from the book. Harvey is in the kitchen when he hears a board creak upstairs. He runs upstairs and Lindsey dives out the window. She is unhurt and runs away. Harvey sees Lindsey from the back of her soccer jersey as she was running away.
    Lindsey gives the drawing to Jack. Abigail quickly leaves quickly, horrified of the thought of what her daughter just did. Lindsey tells Jack she thinks Harvey saw her.
    Susie meets Flora, another little girl killed by Harvey. She also meets Harvey’s other victims and learns their stories.

    Chapter 15

    Harvey remembers shoplifting with his mother. It was a game they used to play. He also remembers being taught to take valuables from the dead. She teaches him being a child or a woman are the two worst things to be.
    He collects the charms he has collected from his victims. He hides his valuables in a hole in the basement and calls the police, telling them his house has been broken into. He plans to leave.
    Jack calls the police as well, but learns the police are already at Harvey’s house. Harvey volunteers to allow the police to search his home. The police tell him Lindsey found the drawing. He tells police he sketched it after Susie’s death, in an attempt to solve the murder. The police apologize to him and he agrees to not press charges against Lindsey.
    Susie watches her family fall apart as a result of the break-in. Her mother drops Buckley at a play area and calls Len to meet her at the mall. She consummates her relationship with Len as Harvey packs his belongings at home. Harvey leaves.

    Chapter 16

    Ray and Ruth have been kissing for some time and Ray is developing feelings for Ruth. Ruth begins to have feelings for Ray as well.
    Ray and Ruth go to the cornfield to observe the second anniversary of Susie’s death. Samuel and Hal are there, and someone has left daffodils on the ground. Other neighbors decide to join them. Lindsey tells Abigail something is going on, but Abigail is not interested. She would rather read. Lindsey watches from the window.
    Susie watches the makeshift memorial. It appears to her everyone she ever knew was in attendance. The neighbors have heard about Mr. Harvey’s suspected connection to the murder and are gossiping about it. No one calls the Salmon house to tell them what is going on.
    Lindsey realizes what is going on. Abigail says she is done with memorial services. She has other ways to honor her daughter’s memory. Lindsey asks what she means, and Abigail says she wants to be more than a mother. Lindsey asks if her mother is planning to leave. Abigail lies and tells her she will never leave, but she has a plan to leave.
    Jack tells Lindsey he will go with her to the cornfield. Buckley goes with them, but Abigail stays home, hiding from them until they leave the house. Buckley tells them he sees Susie.


    In the summer of 1975, Abigail leaves for her father’s cabin in New Hampshire. Neighbors begin bringing food to the Salmon house.
    In the fall of 1975, Grandma Lynn decides to move in with Jack and the kids. Abigail has been gone for four months.
    Mr. Harvey has been gone for a year by December, 1975. No one has seen him.
    Hal drives Lindsey to the police station, where she demands to be told what is going on in the investigation. Lindsey sees a red cloth on Len’s desk, which she recognizes as her mother’s. She asks Len why he has her mother’s scarf, and he tells her Abigail left it in his car. Lindsey asks why her mother was in his car, and she figures out her mother’s involvement with Len without being told. Hal comforts her.
    Buckley builds a fort for Susie when he is seven. He reads comic books in the fort and keeps to himself.
    In the fall of 1976, Len Fenerman re-examines the evidence collected years ago. He finds the coke can with Mr Harvey’s finger prints as well as susie’s prints .He realizes Jack had been right about Harvey all along, but he cannot find Harvey because there are no records of a man named George Harvey. Len tries to trace him through the dollhouses, but cannot get a lead. He realizes he let a murderer get away.
    On September 10, 1976, a hunter finds Susie’s keystone charm. He also finds the bones of a child’s foot.
    Abigail drives from New Hampshire to California. She wants to start over somewhere different. She starts working at a winery.
    Ruth moves to New York City and Ray is a pre-med student at Penn.
    Harvey has been living in various places along the East Coast, but frequently drives by the old neighborhood.
    In December 1981, Len receives a phone call from Delaware regarding another murder. This murder has also been connected to a girl’s body found in 1976 in Connecticut.
    Hal has been working with his biker friends to find George Harvey. He meets a man who says a man who built dollhouses killed his mother. Hal calls Len.

    Chapter 17

    Samuel and Lindsey take refuge from a storm in an abandoned house on their way home from their college graduation. Samuel falls in love with the house. He wants to live in the house, and asks Lindsey to marry him. Lindsey accepts, and she and Samuel run the remaining miles home in their underwear to tell Jack.
    The family celebrates the engagement. Buckley catches a glimpse of Susie for a moment.

    Chapter 18

    Ruth plans to visit home when she learns the sink hole will be filled. She has been writing and tending bar in New York. She is still close to Ray. Susie watches Ruth, who has become a celebrity in Susie’s heaven because Ruth sees images of people’s deaths.
    Buckley brings up a box of Susie’s clothes from the basement, intending to use them to stake tomatoes. Buckley and Jack fight about Jack’s inability to let go of Susie. Jack has a heart attack.
    Susie stays by her father’s hospital bed. She also checks on Buckley, who asks Susie to save Jack.
    Susie returns to heaven, where she is visited by her grandfather. She dances with him for hours until he leaves.

    Chapter 19

    Abigail learns Jack has suffered a heart attack. She flies back home to see him.
    It is her first trip back in eight years.
    Abigail barely recognizes Lindsey when she steps off the plane. She recognizes Buckley right away, who is openly hostile to Abigail. Abigail cries in the car, but Buckley is not affected.
    Jack wakes up when Abigail enters the room. He is happy to see her.
    Grandma Lynn intercepts a message to Jack from Len saying he will visit soon.

    Chapter 20

    Harvey visits the shack he buried a woman in several years ago. The body has been dug up.
    Abigail stays at the hospital with Jack after everyone else has gone home. She wonders how long she will stay and what her visit will mean. She realizes she never stopped loving Jack, but that she cannot stay.
    Harvey dreams of Lindsey, remembering her running away from his house. He has this dream whenever he feels threatened.
    Susie enters the hospital room as her parents sleep. Jack senses her presence. Jack asks Abigail to stay, and she says she will stay for awhile. Jack tells Abigail he saw Susie in the room. Abigail says she sees Susie everywhere. Abigail and Jack kiss.

    Chapter 21

    Susie remembers her first and last kiss with Ray.
    Ruth and Ray drive to see the sinkhole before it is filled.
    Len drives to the hospital to see Jack. He knows that Abigail is with him, and he feels guilty. He intends to give them Susie’s keystone charm.
    Abigail is stricken when she sees Len, but recovers quickly. He tells them the police found the charm near a grave in Connecticut. The grave does not belong to Susie, but this connects Susie’s murder to the other murders.
    Harvey is driving a battered orange car. He has been having the dream about Lindsey again. He is also flooded with the memories of his victims. He remembers his first crime, which was the rape of a friend. The girl died a few years later. Susie sees the girl sitting in the passenger seat of Harvey’s car.
    Ruth and Ray arrive at the sinkhole. An old gas stove is rising from the sinkhole. Ruth sees Susie standing beside her.
    Lindsey is home alone. Harvey is driving through the neighborhood. He no longer cares if anyone sees him. He watches Lindsey through the window.
    Susie sees the final vestiges of the women and animals Mr. Harvey killed finally leaving his house.
    A police officer approaches Mr. Harvey’s car and asks if he is lost. The officer tells him to move along, but writes down his license plate number.
    Ruth does not tell Ray she saw Susie. She sees Mr. Harvey drive toward the sinkhole. She sees the blood-soaked victims sitting in the car with him. She then blacks out.
    Susie falls from heaven to Earth.

    Chapter 22

    Susie enters Ruth’s body and Ruth floats out of her own body. Susie opens her eyes and finds herself in Ray’s arms. She tells Ray to kiss her. Susie tells Ray to drive her to Hal’s bike shop. Susie steps into the shower and asks Ray to join her. He calls her Susie, not Ruth. He realizes she is not Ruth, and Susie tells him she watched both of them for years. They have sex. She tells him to read Ruth’s journals before he leaves the room. Susie calls Buckley, but he cannot hear her. When Ray comes back from the shower. He realizes Susie is gone and Ruth is back.

    Chapter 23

    Ray reads parts of Ruth’s journals as she sleeps. He realizes Ruth can see the dead and documents in her journal their locations and causes of death.
    Jack is released from the hospital. Abigail returns home with Jack. Abigail goes to Susie’s room, which is now being used by Grandma Lynn. She tells Susie she loves her, which shocks Susie.
    Ray and his mother bring a pie to the Salmons. Ray tells Samuel that Ruth’s father owns the house he wants to buy. He restores old houses.


    Grandma Lynn dies several years later, but Susie has not seen her yet in her heaven.
    After Lindsey and Samuel marry, they move into their house. Ruth’s father sells them the house after Samuel pays him in labor as his first employee in the restoration business. Lindsey discovers she is pregnant.
    Abigail stays with Jack and they give the rest of Susie’s belongings to Good Will, finally letting her go.
    Ray becomes a doctor. Ruth still sees and documents the stories of the dead.
    Susie is now in wide heaven, which is a place of comfort. It is from this heaven Susie sees Harvey again. He is having coffee in a diner when he sees a teenage girl who sat in front of him on the bus. He follows her and tries to engage her in a conversation. Susie sees an icicle above him and she causes the icicle to fall, hitting him and knocking him down a ravine. His body is found weeks later.
    Lindsey becomes a therapist and has a daughter she names Abigail Suzanne.
    A man finds Susie’s charm bracelet at the industrial park. His wife says the little girl who owned the bracelet is grown up by now. Susie hears them and says that she is not quite grown up yet.

    External Links

    Lovely Bones, The
    Lovely Bones, The
    Lovely Bones, The
    Lovely Bones, The
    Lovely Bones, The