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The Lovely Bones

The Lovely Bones

by Alice Sebold

Mortality Theme

In The Lovely Bones Susie Salmon recounts, from the afterlife, her grim and violent death by the hands of her rapist and neighbor, George Harvey. Susie says that the way we die, and the needs, desires, and qualities we possess at the time of death, impact our experiences in the afterworld. This is the story of Susie's experience in the afterworld, where she watches her family on Earth breakdown and rebuild. She also stalks her killer and tries to engineer his capture, while learning about his previous crimes and communing with his other dead victims. Eventually, Susie comes to terms with her existence in the new realm. The novel contrasts a hideous death with a lovely and compelling vision of the afterlife.

Questions About Mortality

  1. How do you feel about Susie's depiction of the afterlife?
  2. If Susie had died of illness or accident, would her friends and family suffer in the same way? How might the circumstances of a person's death influence the way their loved ones deal with the loss?
  3. What might happen to Mr. Harvey after he dies? Does he go to heaven or wide wide Heaven?
  4. If you went to the afterworld today, what would it look like by the rules of Susie's cosmology? What wishes, desires, talents, interests, and unresolved issues would accompany you?

Chew on This

Try on an opinion or two, start a debate, or play the devil’s advocate.

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