The Lovely Bones

The Lovely Bones Chapter 17 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
At twenty-one years old, Lindsey is many things that Susie will never become, but Susie no longer “grieves” this fact. She still lives vicariously through Lindsey, however, and now she watches breathlessly as Lindsey graduates from college and rides home from the ceremony on the back of Samuel’s motorcycle. As they near home, it begins to rain, and soon they cannot ride any further. Samuel pulls off the road, and the two of them take shelter beneath a tree. They remove their helmets and kiss as the rain falls around them. Susie watches them with envy, knowing that they are each other’s “one and only.”
Susie’s jealousy of her sister Lindsey has dulled over the years. Susie still wishes that she could do the things Lindsey is doing and feel the things Lindsey feels, but sometimes Susie can almost trick herself into believing that she and Lindsey are one. The thing Susie envies most about Lindsey’s life is her having found fulfillment in romantic love—something Susie always longed for, but found her desire for met only with trauma and violence.
Themes
Tragedy, Grief, Alienation, and Isolation Theme Icon
Love and Sex Theme Icon
Family and Community Theme Icon
Desire and Longing Theme Icon
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Lindsey and Samuel, searching for more cover, tramp through the underbrush until they come upon an old Victorian house. Wondering if someone is inside, they venture up to the door and let themselves in. The house is abandoned and empty, and as the two of them explore it, Samuel marvels at the careful woodworking. Examining a large walk-in fireplace, he remarks that someone could be “walled into” the space, and an awkward silence passes between them as they both think of—but do not mention—Susie, and Susie is slightly disappointed. Samuel announces that he wants the house—he feels it “needs” him. Lindsey taunts him, calling him the “fixer of broken things,” and then the two make love in the empty living room.
Lindsey and Samuel’s relationship, happy and fulfilling though it is, is still dogged by remembrances of Susie and awkward moments where her loss, and the impact it has had on both Lindsey and Samuel, enters unwelcomed into the room. In these moments, Susie—in true Susie fashion—feels sad to be overlooked, wishing that her presence would still be the most important thing in any conversation.
Themes
Tragedy, Grief, Alienation, and Isolation Theme Icon
Love and Sex Theme Icon
Family and Community Theme Icon
Desire and Longing Theme Icon
At home, in his den, Jack Salmon plays with an old snow globe that Susie once loved. Hal Heckler has made it back from the ceremony on his motorcycle, so the fact that Lindsey and Samuel have not worries him. Buckley, now 12, knocks on the door, reassuring him that Lindsey and Samuel will be all right and reminding him that Hal and Grandma Lynn are still downstairs. Buckley leaves, and Jack flips through a stack of photos—the last of Susie’s film, which he recently developed. Looking through old photographs of Abigail, he begins falling in love with her all over again, reminiscing about their happier days before Susie’s death.
As a result of Susie’s death—one that has lingered through the years—being late at the Salmon house is never just being late. Lindsey and Samuel’s tardiness inspires fear and reflectiveness in Jack, who is inundated with memories of what happened the last time one of his children didn’t come home on time. He also misses Abigail deeply on this special day, which was a family celebration of how far one of their own has come in the face of unspeakable grief.
Themes
Tragedy, Grief, Alienation, and Isolation Theme Icon
Family and Community Theme Icon
Back in the old Victorian house, Samuel proposes to Lindsey. He tells he that he wants to refurbish the house with her by his side, and make a life with her inside of it. Lindsey accepts, and Susie, up in heaven, runs joyously in circles—Lindsey and Samuel have fulfilled her “dream.” Lindsey and Samuel embrace, but soon Lindsey pulls away, knowing that her father will begin worrying soon. She tells Samuel that they’re only eight miles from home, and suggests they run for it. As Samuel and Lindsey sprint wildly through the rain in only their t-shirts and underwear, Lindsey remembers swimming at the local pool with Susie. As Susie, in heaven, watches Lindsey run, she knows that her sister is not running away from her or toward her. Lindsey, full of joy, stops running to kiss Samuel in the rain.
In the previous scene with Samuel and Lindsey, Susie was happy for them, but also wanted to remain the center of attention. In this scene, as she watches her sister achieve a “dream” that Susie has harbored—for Lindsey, and also for herself—for many years, she is overwhelmed with pure joy and exaltation. Susie realizes that Lindsey’s finding fulfillment and attempting to move on is not Lindsey relinquishing Susie, but simply trying to carve out a life for herself.
Themes
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Love and Sex Theme Icon
Family and Community Theme Icon
Desire and Longing Theme Icon
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At four o’clock, while Hal and Lynn are baking brownies in the kitchen, the doorbell rings. It is Lindsey and Samuel at the door, soaking wet. Buckley fetches towels for them, and Jack lights a fire in the living room. As the Salmons and the Heckler boys sit cozily in the living room, Samuel tells Jack that he has asked Lindsey to marry him. Jack is thrilled, and the family erupts with joy. There is an undercurrent of sadness, though, and out of the corner of his eye, Buckley sees Susie standing in the room, watching them all celebrate.
There was no underlying sadness when Susie witnessed Samuel’s proposal—but as he relays the news to the entire family, there is a definite tinge of pain and wistfulness that ripples through the room. Buckley, who has always purported to be the most sensitive to Susie’s presence, even sees her standing there—with them, in a way, but also profoundly isolated from them and their joy.
Themes
Tragedy, Grief, Alienation, and Isolation Theme Icon
Family and Community Theme Icon
Desire and Longing Theme Icon