The Lovely Bones

The Lovely Bones Chapter 19 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
When Abigail arrives at the winery for her shift, she finds a note from the caretaker waiting for her: it tells her that there has been an emergency back in Norristown. She dials home and gets no answer; when she asks the operator to dial the Singhs’ number, Ruana picks up, and tells her that an ambulance pulled up to the Salmon house a few hours ago, but that she doesn’t know who was taken away. Abigail begins dialing local hospitals in Norristown, until she finds one that tells her Jack was admitted recently. She asks what happened to him, and when the operator asks what her relationship to the patient is, she speaks words she has not spoken in years, and tells the operator that she is Jack’s wife. The person on the other end tells her that Jack has had a heart attack.
Abigail, who has cut herself off from her family for so many years, finds herself desperate to reconnect with them in this time of crisis. She fears that one of her children has been involved in another accident or emergency, and though this brings up painful feelings that mirror the fear she felt when Susie disappeared, she persists in trying to find out what has happened, and to whom. The truth sends her reeling—though she left Jack, she is still his wife, and there is an allegiance between them that is still alive after all these years.
Themes
Tragedy, Grief, Alienation, and Isolation Theme Icon
Family and Community Theme Icon
Abigail rushes to the airport and boards a connecting flight to Philadelphia. When she lands in Chicago, she calls the hospital and asks to speak to Lynn; she lets her mother know that she is on her way. Lynn reveals that Jack has been asking for her, and also lets Abigail know that Lindsey and Samuel are engaged. Before she hangs up, Lynn warns Abigail of one more thing: Jack, in his groggy state, has been asking for Susie, too.
Abigail knows that her mother has stepped into the vacant place she herself left behind when she departed Norristown, and now she seeks to let her mother know that she is coming back to fill that gap—if not forever, at least for a time. Lynn, however, knows that her daughter may not be prepared to handle the grief and confusion that still mark the Salmons’ lives—especially Jack’s.
Themes
Tragedy, Grief, Alienation, and Isolation Theme Icon
Family and Community Theme Icon
Abigail goes outside of the airport for a cigarette. She takes her wallet out of her back pocket and retrieves from it a school picture of Susie. She studies it carefully, taking in all the remembered details of Susie’s face, until she hears the announcement for her flight over the loudspeaker. Turning around, she sees a tiny, struggling tree growing near the airport doors. She props Susie’s picture against its trunk and goes back inside.
Abigail’s leaving behind of Susie’s school picture symbolizes her recognition that this is not a time for grief and remorse—it is a time for action, for solidarity, and for helping her husband to heal. She cannot do that if she is still in mourning for Susie, and so she symbolically attempts to let her go.
Themes
Tragedy, Grief, Alienation, and Isolation Theme Icon
Family and Community Theme Icon
On the flight to Philadelphia, Abigail realizes that by abandoning her children she has relinquished her role as a mother. She reflects on how she never felt the calling to be a mother, and believes she has been “punished in the most horrible and unimaginable way” for never having wanted Susie in the first place.
Abigail carries a deep-seated sense of guilt and shame over her reluctance to be a mother. She fears that it resulted in her daughter’s death, and it is implied that this is ultimately what drove her away from her family—the fear that her remaining children would also be affected by her lack of desire to be a mother.
Themes
Tragedy, Grief, Alienation, and Isolation Theme Icon
Family and Community Theme Icon
Desire and Longing Theme Icon
Related Quotes
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When Abigail disembarks the plane in Philadelphia, she barely recognizes Lindsey, who is waiting for her at the gate, or Samuel, who stands by her side. She does not even notice Buckley, sitting off to the side, until she is halfway down the carpeted ramp toward him. When she sees him, she sees herself at twelve reflected in his chubby cheeks and heavy legs, and is shocked by the resemblance.
Abigail has missed her children’s lives, and is surprised by how much they have changed—in Lindsey’s case—and by how much they mirror her despite her absence in Buckley’s.
Themes
Tragedy, Grief, Alienation, and Isolation Theme Icon
Family and Community Theme Icon
On the way to the parking garage, Abigail apologizes for lying to Lindsey—their eyes meet, and the secret of Len hangs in the air between them. Once in the car, Lindsey tells Abigail that the hospital won’t let Buckley in to see Jack because of his age. Abigail assures Lindsey and Buckley she’ll try and do something, but Buckley mutters “fuck you” under his breath and refuses to even look at Abigail. Samuel, trying to ease the tension, announces that everyone will feel better after they all get to see Jack together.
Things are tense between Abigail and her children, and while Lindsey struggles to keep her mouth shut and thus keep the peace, Buckley is as angry with his mother as he recently was at Jack, and refuses to make nice. Buckley has grown up in the shadow of loss and grief, and is no longer able to hide the anger and betrayal he feels at having been so overlooked by his parents in favor of a dead girl.
Themes
Justice and Injustice Theme Icon
Tragedy, Grief, Alienation, and Isolation Theme Icon
Family and Community Theme Icon
Abigail finds herself in the same hospital she came to eight years ago in the middle of the night, when Jack went out into the cornfield. She recalls her first kiss with Len, which took place on the balcony that day, and feels the impulse to flee back to California, but as she walks into the hospital room and sees Jack, everything else falls away. Abigail runs to Jack and grabs his hand, and he opens his eyes to look at her. Jack greets her warmly, calling her “Ocean Eyes,” and jokingly marvels at “what it took to get [her] home.”
As Abigail returns to the hospital, the errors and betrayals of her past rise up to haunt her. She has hurt her children, her husband, and herself by being so careless with her own heart and the hearts of her family. She does not want to stay and face the music, so to speak, but as soon as she sees Jack she knows that she must remain with him.
Themes
Justice and Injustice Theme Icon
Tragedy, Grief, Alienation, and Isolation Theme Icon
Love and Sex Theme Icon
Family and Community Theme Icon
Desire and Longing Theme Icon
Grandma Lynn tiptoes out of the room and into the waiting area, intercepting a nurse carrying a message for Jack Salmon. Lynn reads the note: it is from Len Fenerman, and it promises that he will visit soon. Lynn folds the note neatly and places it in her purse.
Lynn does not want to interrupt her daughter’s reunion with her son-in-law by bringing into the room one of the biggest things that tore them apart—Len.
Themes
Tragedy, Grief, Alienation, and Isolation Theme Icon
Family and Community Theme Icon