Study Guide

The Lovely Bones Time

By Alice Sebold

Time

Chapter 1
Susie Salmon

I can still see the hole like it was yesterday, and it was. Life is a perpetual yesterday for us. (1.39)

At the end, we learn that Susie is telling her story from wide wide Heaven. So, it seems the hole is forever stamped in her memory. Now that she knows eternal time, the hole is both eternally far and eternally near her in time.

Chapter 2
Susie Salmon

I could not have what I wanted most. Mr. Harvey dead and me living. Heaven wasn't perfect. (2.39)

Susie does get both wishes, the first one for all eternity; the second for that time in the arms of Ray.

That was when we went to a part of heaven we didn't share. I missed her then, but it was an odd sort of missing because we knew the meaning of forever. (2.38)

She's talking about Holly, who remains a minor character. We like the quote because it challenges us to reflect on the nature of time, whether we agree with Susie's rather broadly painted conception of it.

Chapter 3
Susie Salmon

It was my first machine, my starter kit to becoming what I wanted to be. A wildlife photographer. (3.42)

Susie's first machine, her camera, also becomes a time machine, or the pictures she takes become one. The photos she leaves behind reanimate things that happened long ago -- so long as they exist and there is someone to look at them.

Chapter 10
Franny

"If you stop asking why you were killed instead of someone else, stop investigating the vacuum left by your loss, stop wondering what everyone left on Earth is feeling […], you can be free. (10.52)

Franny is a blunt intake counselor, if a bit mysterious. One point she's making: time is relative. The less Susie cares about her life on Earth, the further Earth and the memories are from her in space-time.

Chapter 14

She couldn't stop the memories from slamming into her. (14.24)

We talk about this in "Setting." Since Harvey and the Salmon's houses have the same floor plan, time and space bends hideously for Lindsey. She is assailed in an almost physical way by memories of Susie at home.

Chapter 16: Snapshots

Woosh and you can start over again. Or was life more like the horrible game in gym that has you running from one side of an enclosed space to another, picking up and setting down wooden blocks without end? (16: Snapshots.73)

Abigail's vision of what life might be about, sound a lot like Sisyphusian Hades (Sisyphus being the guy who has to keep rolling the boulder up the hill for all eternity). What do you think Abigail's vision of life looks like at the point we leave her in the book?

Chapter 17
Susie Salmon

He saw me standing under the rustic colonial clock and stared. He was drinking champagne. There were strings coming out from all around me, reaching out, waving in the air. (17.103)

Aha! Clocks and time go together like ticks and tocks. Susie even describes herself as resembling a clock, with funny wavy arms, like her funny wavy conception of time.

Chapter 18

Let go. Let go. Let go. (18.75)

This is what Jack Salmon hears before he has his heart attack, when Buckley begs him to forget Susie. Where does the voice come from? Is it Susie? Is it something within Jack?

Chapter 19
Susie Salmon

After eight years it was, even for my mother, like the ubiquitous photo of a celebrity. (19.30)

When Abigail leaves Susie's photo outside the airport, it makes us tear up. We don't want her to give Susie up, but we know that she must. And Susie is already in heaven. Looks like we too have some letting go to do.

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