Grandma Lynn arrives in Norristown the evening before Susie’s memorial. Grandma Lynn always hires a limousine from the airport, and drinks champagne in the backseat while wearing a mink fur coat. She insisted on coming in for the memorial—which had been Principal Caden’s idea—despite Abigail’s protests that she didn’t need to. Abigail finds her mother embarrassing and outlandish, and the two, when around each other, circle each other’s emotions in a “sad, partnerless dance.”
Grandma Lynn’s larger-than-life personality and carefully polished exterior set her up as a character who will, like Lindsey, not so easily betray the feelings she’s experiencing inside. She and Abigail don’t connect well, and never have—their fraught relationship has laid the groundwork for Abigail’s insecurity as a mother and caretaker.
As Grandma Lynn pulls up to the house, she calls out to Jack, who is sitting on the porch, that she needs a stiff drink. Lindsey runs away into the house, and Grandma Lynn remarks that Lindsey hates her. Inside the house, Abigail takes Grandma Lynn’s coat, and Grandma Lynn asks if Jack is still “muttering about that man having done it.” Lynn warns Abigail that she and Jack will be sued if he keeps looking into Mr. Harvey. What the women cannot see—but what Susie can—is that Lindsey is sitting on the top of the stairs, listening to them.
Grandma Lynn arrives at the Salmon house in a flurry, immediately demanding a drink and loudly asking questions about the very sensitive investigation taking place before she’s even all the way in the house. Lynn doesn’t care what anyone thinks of her, and she’s clearly a woman who does not compromise any part of herself even in the face of tragedy or strife.
Without her coat, Grandma Lynn is thin and “starved down.” She used to constantly tell Susie and Lindsey that they, too, needed to starve themselves down, and offered them diet pills each time she visited. When Susie was alive, she notes, “everything [her] grandmother did was bad.” Now, though, Grandma Lynn’s presence brings life and light back into the house.
Grandma Lynn, obsessed with the physical and with making oneself seem beautiful and desirable, is very different from the rest of her family. Where her visits used to cause turmoil and arguments, now her levity and focus not on emotion but on presentation is a much-welcome relief, as the Salmons have begun to become lost in their own grief.
After dinner, Lynn joins Abigail at the sink, and tells her that she “needs some help.” Abigail thinks that her mother is offering to help with the dishes—instead, Lynn announces her intention to grab her “bag o’ magic” and give Abigail a makeover. Abigail is reluctant, but Lindsey asks if Lynn will teach her about makeup, and then Abigail consents to be a model. As Grandma Lynn curls Abigail and Lindsey’s eyelashes, she intuits that Lindsey has a boyfriend. Lindsey bashfully denies it, but the truth is obvious. Grandma Lynn gets drunk on 7 and 7s, and does Lindsey’s makeup garishly.
Abigail and Lindsey have been so focused on keeping themselves hidden and combing through the unstoppable waves of grief that both of them have forgotten about small, simple pleasures and the value of self-care. Lynn helps them to let loose for a little while, and feel good about themselves—something they haven’t done since Susie’s disappearance.
The morning of Susie’s memorial, Lindsey sneaks into Susie’s room to steal one of her dresses to wear. She was careful to sleep on her back so that her makeover would remain intact overnight. Susie feels slightly jealous watching her sister open the double doors to her own still-messy closet and survey everything inside. Lindsey wants to look nice for Samuel, and as she looks through her sister’s closet, she realizes “with guilt and glee” that everything that once belonged to Susie now belongs to her.
As Lindsey prepares to officially say goodbye to her sister, she sits with the uneasy intersection of loss and freedom. Lindsey is the oldest now, and as such she bears a responsibility to honor her sister’s memory but also to carve a new path for herself in the wake of her sister’s loss.
Grandma Lynn appears in the doorway and asks Lindsey to zip up her dress. After Lindsey helps her grandmother, she confesses that she is already beginning to forget what parts of her sister looks like. Distraught, she begins to cry, and worries that she won’t look pretty for the memorial. Grandma Lynn helps Lindsey pick out one of Susie’s dresses. Lindsey asks what man Lynn and Abigail had been talking about the day before, but Lynn deflects, pulling a dark blue mini-dress out of Susie’s closet. Jack calls from downstairs that it will be time to leave in ten minutes. Grandma Lynn helps Lindsey to get ready in a hurry, touching up her makeup and picking out a pair of shoes. When the two of them get downstairs and into the car, Lindsey realizes that Lynn does not have any makeup on her own face.
Though it’s implied that Lynn and Lindsey have had a strained relationship in the past, in this passage, Sebold shows them connecting over their grief. Lynn, who has been portrayed as a vain and self-centered woman up to this point, gives up the thing that matters most to her—her looks—in order to make sure that her distraught granddaughter feels and looks pretty.
Samuel is standing by the church door, dressed in all black. His older brother Hal stands beside him. Grandma Lynn introduces herself to Samuel as “the evil grandma,” and then the Salmons, together with the Hecklers, head into the church. Len Fenerman is inside, and though Jack asks him to come sit with their family, Len implies that he wants to stand by the door and carefully observe who comes to the funeral.
Though Len Fenerman, too, is in mourning for Susie’s life, his place is at the door. It is his job to surveil the memorial for any suspicious persons or activities, in case Susie’s killer, hungry for a glimpse of what he has wrought or testing the limits of his unknowability, comes to the service.
That morning, Jack woke up with a hangover. Though the days since Susie’s death have all been miserable, the idea of a day devoted entirely to mourning her—not sidestepping her death, or attempting to get through day-to-day life without thinking of her—is something of a relief.
Though today is going to be hard, as it is an official goodbye to Susie, it is actually easier for Jack to get through a day dedicated to mourning his daughter’s loss than it is to get through a day in which it is shoved to the sidelines or brushed under the rug. This passage demonstrates Jack’s reluctance to simply try to move on.
Ruth arrives with her father and begins making small talk with Mr. and Mrs. Dewitt. Mrs. Dewitt, the English teacher, recently had Ruth turn in a poem all about Susie, and she plans to take it to the guidance counselor on Monday. Ruth notices Lindsey, in makeup, holding hands with Samuel, and worries that Lindsey is “subjugating” herself to traditional femininity.
This passage represents the first instance of Ruth’s gaze on Earth echoing Susie’s gaze in heaven. Though Susie was happy for Lindsey for getting together with Samuel, there is a hint of jealousy underneath. Ruth, too, feels concern and jealousy when she sees Lindsey and Samuel together.
Clarissa and Brian Nelson are there, and Clarissa greets the Salmons solemnly. Abigail cannot stop staring at Clarissa as if in a trance—she cannot help but focus on the fact that Clarissa is alive while her own daughter is dead. Clarissa notices that Lindsey is wearing a dress she had once lent to Susie, but she knows that she can never ask for it back now.
In this passage, Clarissa’s very existence represents a great injustice to the Salmons. She is alive, while their own child is dead. As the novel progresses, it will continue to play with this sense of injustice that Clarissa inspires in Jack and Abigail both.
Ray Singh does not attend Susie’s memorial. He says goodbye to Susie in his own way, by staring at a photograph that Susie had given to him while she still lived. As he looks at the photo, he comes to understand that it does not contain Susie—she is in the air around him, in his cold mornings with Ruth, and in the quiet time he spends alone. He places Susie’s photograph inside a large volume of Indian poetry from his mother’s bookshelf, symbolically letting her go.
Ray Singh has been obsessed with Susie since well before her death, and in this passage, he attempts to ward off his lingering feelings of pain, regret, sorrow, and longing for the girl he loved and lost.
At the service, everyone says nice things about Susie—Principal Caden, Mrs. Dewitt, and the Reverend Strick all speak—but Jack and Abigail sit numbly through the memorial. Lindsey, too, does not react to Samuel’s attempts to squeeze her hand and reassure her. At the end of the service, as the family stands for the final hymn, Grandma Lynn leans over to Lindsey and whispers to her, telling her to look toward the door. Standing behind Len Fenerman, who is inside the doorway and singing along, is George Harvey. Lindsey locks eyes with him and immediately faints on the spot. In the ensuing commotion, George Harvey slips away unnoticed.
The Salmon family, overwhelmed by grief, sit woodenly through their community’s fond remembrances of and tearful goodbyes to Susie. Lynn and Lindsey, however, are shocked from their numbness when they witness a strange presence hovering on the outskirts of the memorial. Lindsey is then overcome by the realization that Harvey is her sister’s killer—guided by the same kind of intuition or supernatural influence that made Jack so sure of this fact as well.