The Lovely Bones

The Lovely Bones Chapter 21 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
After Susie turns away from watching her parents, she moves on to watching Ray Singh, who is at home in his parents’ house, and reflects on their kiss. Susie remembers, after the morning on the scaffolding, that she avoided being alone with Ray. She was afraid of what she wanted most—his kiss. Susie remembers talking with Grandma Lynn on the phone about kissing—Grandma Lynn described one’s first kiss as “destiny knocking.” Susie revealed her crush on Ray Singh to her grandmother, and when Lynn asked what the holdup was, Susie confessed she was afraid she’d be bad at kissing. Grandma Lynn told her to “just have fun.” During the kiss itself, though, Susie felt “churned”—a combination of happy and frightened. After the kiss, Susie had wanted more, and could not wait to kiss Ray Singh again.
Susie’s memories of Ray Singh are just as alive in her mind now as they were on the day of her murder. Her infatuation with Ray Singh has never ended, and as she has watched him over the years, she has only become more curious about what could have been between them had her life not been unjustly cut short. Even years after the kiss, and trapped as she is in her perfect world, Susie still desires more from Ray, and still longs for him deeply.
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In the present, Ruth’s father cuts an article about the filling-in of the sinkhole out of the paper for Ruth to read. Ray arrives to pick Ruth up at her parents’ house so that the two of them can head for the sinkhole, and Ruth shoves the article in his face, complaining about the fact that the whole neighborhood will soon turn into subdivisions. Ray is charmed by Ruth’s impatience and curiosity, and notes that these traits in both of them are the reason their friendship has lasted so many years. As the two drive toward the sinkhole, they see Joe Ellis walking up ahead. Ruth reveals that her mother has told her that Joe Ellis still lives at home and cannot find a job. Ray sadly remarks that Joe “never got over” Mr. Harvey unjustly framing him for the killing of the neighborhood animals.
Ruth and Ray’s friendship has endured over the years due to their mutual respect for one another and their corresponding concerns and curiosity about their hometown and the world around them. Their shared memories of all that transpired the year of Susie’s death have bonded them for life, and as they reflect on those whose lives have remained just as haunted by the fallout from Susie’s death—Joe Ellis included—their friendship deepens and renews itself again and again.
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Susie looks down on Route 30, at a spot Ruth and Ray are about to drive past. She sees Len coming out of an apartment carrying a knapsack full of evidence—photos of the graves of the recovered bodies that have been linked to Mr. Harvey. Len is gearing up to go visit Jack in the hospital, and is thinking hard about what he is going to say. He feels guilty that all he has to give them after all these years is just one small charm.
Len, meanwhile, wants to give the Salmons what they so desire—closure—while knowing that he can only offer them a small shred of it. He knows that the charm will not suffice, but at least hopes that it will bring some comfort.
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Len arrives at the hospital and enters Jack’s room. Abigail awkwardly welcomes him. Len tells Abigail and Jack not to get their hopes up—Harvey still hasn’t been caught. He reveals that the police have found an item of Susie’s—the Pennsylvania Keystone charm. Len reveals that the charm was found near another body in Connecticut, and that while the body was not Susie’s, its recovery means that Harvey can be linked to murders in two other states. As Len retrieves that charm from inside his knapsack, Jack grows excited at the prospect of Susie’s case reopening, while Abigail becomes filled with dread. Len hands Jack the evidence bag, and Jack reaches in for the charm. Abigail asks Len how he is certain that Harvey killed the other girls. Len answers that nothing is certain. Abigail, recognizing this as a fixed phrase that “prey[s] on hope,” asks Len to leave.
The complicated and painful dynamic between Abigail, Jack, and Len is put on display one final time in this fraught passage. Len, after all these years, still cannot offer the Salmons any closure or justice. Feeling guilty both for failing to catch Susie’s killer and for breaking their marriage apart, Len offers the charm as a kind of peace offering, along with the knowledge that one day Harvey will be held accountable for all the pain he has wrought. Abigail, however, has no more energy left to waste on false hope, and she recognizes that that is all Len can offer her. In a moment of strength and refusal, she sends him away, indicating her maturation and her desire to move on.
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As Susie turns south to catch up with Ruth and Ray, she instead runs into Mr. Harvey. He is driving a ramshackle orange car, and as he drives along, Susie can sense that the memories of his victims, kept at bay for so many years, are coming back one by one. As Harvey continues driving along, Susie can see that the spirit of the first victim of his violence is sitting beside him in the front seat.
Mr. Harvey has returned to Norristown to survey his old hometown, but this time, something is different. The barrier between the world of the living and the dead seems to have broken open, and Harvey is, whether he knows it or not, being haunted by his victims.
Themes
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As Ruth and Ray arrive at the sinkhole, they both remark on how nothing much has changed, though the sinkhole has definitely expanded. They look around and wonder aloud if Hal Heckler still owns the bike shop on the other side of the railroad tracks. Ruth and Ray stand at the edge of the sinkhole, and Ruth asks Ray if he ever thinks about where Susie’s body ended up. Ray says that he does not. Trying to suppress the memories of Susie rising up in his mind, Ray steps away from the sinkhole to explore the surrounding area.  Ruth, still standing at the edge of the sinkhole, feels Susie’s presence, and addresses her directly. She asks Susie if there is anything she wants, and Susie vanishes.
The ways Ruth and Ray handle the resurfacing of suppressed or painful memories is very different. Ruth goes in search of these memories and moments, hoping to acknowledge and confront them and thus exorcise them—she wants to be a servant of the dead, helping them to obtain what little justice they can and get some semblance of what they need in order to move on. Ray, on the other hand, is reluctant to engage with the dead, perhaps afraid of what an encounter with the spirit world will do to his pragmatic brain, or simply unwilling to face the pain and loss he has carried for so many years.
Themes
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Susie checks in on her family. Hal, Samuel, and Buckley are at a bike show in a nearby town—the bike shop is abandoned for the day. Abigail is at the hospital with Jack, reading to him from the newspaper. Lindsey is at home alone. Mr. Harvey is driving through the neighborhood, and soon circles onto his old street. No one in the neighborhood notices his presence. As Harvey drives past his old house, one of its new inhabitants—a woman—notices his car stopped across the street from where her daughters are playing, and Harvey moves along.
Susie, sensing that something is brewing, leaves Ruth and Ray to check in on those she loves most. She knows that Harvey is circling through the neighborhood, and wants to ensure that everyone she cares for is safe from the violent, dangerous man hiding behind the façade of meekness and geniality.
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Harvey passes the Salmon house, and can see Lindsey in the upstairs window. Susie sees a group of people beginning to come down the road towards Harvey’s car—it is the final vestiges of the spirits of the women, children, and animals he has killed, emerging from his house. Harvey knows he cannot outrun them, and sits still in the car. A police vehicle pulls up alongside him, and an officer asks if Harvey is lost. Harvey admits, truthfully, that he used to live in the neighborhood. The officer suggests Harvey move along, and as he does, Susie watches Lindsey—safe inside, studying. She has decided to be a therapist.
The police’s catching up with Harvey mirrors the spirits of the women and animals he has killed at last catching up to him. Though the officer who stops him is not aware of who he is—too much time has passed—Harvey is put on high alert by the encounter. Susie is nervous that Harvey will come for Lindsey, who has always threatened him, and who was the reason he had to leave town—but Harvey is not concerned with killing Lindsey, as his instincts for self-preservation seem to win out.
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Related Quotes
As Ruth and Ray return to their car, Ruth remains silent, vowing not to tell Ray about her brief encounter with Susie at the sinkhole until she has written it down in her journal first. Ray spots a cluster of periwinkle flowers, and goes to clip some for his mother. Ruth stands by the car and waits. Susie feels a prickling along her spine, and watches as Mr. Harvey’s car passes by the sinkhole. As the car goes by, Ruth sees all the women he has killed “stuffed in the car in blood-colored gowns.” Ruth begins walking towards them, and blacks out. That, Susie says, is the moment that she fell to Earth.
Ruth’s second sight is taking over—after she encounters Susie in a more corporeal, meaningful way than she has since the night Susie died, she is assaulted by the vision of all of Harvey’s victims clinging to his ramshackle car. It is all too much for Ruth. In a moment of cosmic interconnectedness, Susie pitches forward toward Earth as the barrier between her world and the world of the living—which has, over the course of this chapter, been growing more and more porous—seems to give out, allowing Susie to finally realize her desire to pass through.
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