The Lovely Bones Summary, Themes, Characters & Synopsis by Alice Sebold

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TitleThe Lovely Bones
AuthorAlice Sebold
Publication DateJuly 3, 2002
No. of Pages328
GenreFiction, Psychological Thriller, Coming-of-age
Setting1970s suburban Pennsylvania, USA
ThemesGrief, Loss, Family, Coming-of-age, Justice, Afterlife
AdaptationsThe book was adapted into a film in 2009 directed by Peter Jackson.


The main characters from “The Lovely Bones” by Alice Sebold are:

  1. Susie Salmon – She’s a young girl who was murdered. After her death, she watches over her family and friends from a special place in the afterlife.
  2. Jack Salmon – He’s Susie’s dad. He’s sad and angry about her death and tries to find the person who hurt her.
  3. Abigail Salmon – She’s Susie’s mom. She’s really sad and sometimes distant because of what happened to Susie.
  4. Lindsey Salmon – She’s Susie’s older sister. She’s trying to understand what happened to Susie and support her family.
  5. Mr. Harvey – He’s the bad guy who hurt Susie. He’s also a serial killer who’s done bad things to other people too.


The themes from “The Lovely Bones” by Alice Sebold are:

  1. Grief and Loss – The sadness and pain people feel when someone they love dies.
  2. Family – How families stick together and support each other during difficult times.
  3. Growing Up – How young people change as they get older and face challenges.
  4. Justice – The idea of fairness and making sure bad actions have consequences.
  5. Life After Death – Imagining what happens after someone dies.
  6. Healing – The process of getting better emotionally after a tough experience.


The Lovely Bones is a novel about a girl named Susie who is murdered.

Even though she’s gone, she watches over her family from a place like heaven.

Her family struggles with her loss and tries to move on. Susie also wants her killer to be caught. The book shows how her family deals with sadness and how Susie helps them heal from the afterlife.


On December 6, 1973, George Harvey, the neighbor of Susie Salmon’s family, kills her. Susie is tricked into entering a hole Mr. Harvey built in the cornfield. He rapes her and tears off her clothing as she attempts to flee. He also chokes her with her hat. Before he plugs in the hole, he murders her, dismembers her, and places her in a bag he takes. He transports the safe containing the corpse bag to a nearby sinkhole.

Susie observes her family as she arrives in paradise. Susie quickly realizes that everyone has a unique heaven tailored to their needs. Len Fenerman, the investigator tasked with her case, is assisting them, and she appreciates him. The police explore the cornfield after discovering Susie’s elbow and find the hole and some of her things. Len Fenerman informs the Salmons that they believe Susie is dead because too much blood is in the dirt. 

Susie is watching her family from her gazebo in paradise. She examines a drawing that her younger brother Buckley created. Susie refers to the picture’s broad blue line that divides the Earth and the sky as the “Inbetween” and thinks it does exist.

Ruth Connors was the victim of Susie’s unintentional contact as her spirit departed the planet. Ruth is captivated by Susie’s life and death due to this event. Ruth, Susie’s family, and her crush Ray Singh are among the individuals Susie keeps an eye on while she is on Earth. Susie remembers a photo she took of her mother, Abigail while adjusting to her everyday responsibilities as a wife and mother. In the picture, Abigail is gazing out into the yard. Lindsey discovers the image in Susie’s bedroom. Jack, Susie’s father, destroys all the model ships he built. Susie, who formerly assisted him in making the ships, shatters the Inbetween by thrusting her face directly into the shards of glass.

Shortly after Susie’s passing, Mr. Harvey constructs a tent outside his home. When Jack Salmon spots him, he offers to assist. Jack sneaks up that Mr. Harvey is suspicious of him because he knows something about Susie’s death. Len Fenerman, who is informed, visits Mr. Harvey’s home to speak with him but does not think anything of him.

Samuel Heckler, a little child, pays Lindsey a visit over the holiday season. After kissing her, he gives her a necklace. Susie recalls that on one occasion, when she was running late for class, she sat next to Ray in the theater’s scaffolding, but their kiss was interrupted when Ruth Connors entered the room. Ray kissed Susie near her locker later that week. Ruth has been taking frequent morning walks in the cornfield since Susie’s passing. They become pals after Ray spots her and follows her. To speak with Ray, Jack Salmon visits the Singhs’ home. Ruana Singh, the mother of Ray, is there, and he greets her. He informs her that he is aware of Susie’s killer.

During Susie’s memorial, Grandma Lynn visits the area. She restores some clarity to the Salmon family home. When Lynn points out George Harvey to Lindsey at the monument, she passes out. Lindsey, Samuel, and Ruth attend a camp for exceptional kids that summer. Samuel and Lindsey lose their virginity there together. The ideal murder is the focus of the camp’s final challenge.

Susie keeps an eye on Mr. Harvey and has access to his early years when his mother abandoned the household. His home is identical to hers, except it is more desolate. He puts a lot of effort into building dollhouses. Jack Salmon phones the police station frequently to report little details about Mr. Harvey to uncover any leads. Len Fenerman eventually shows up at their home and informs them that the murder of Susie is no longer being investigated. That evening, Jack notices a light in the cornfield and runs outside with a baseball bat thinking it is Mr. Harvey. 

Jack is assaulted and taken to the hospital when it turns out to be Susie’s friend and boyfriend. There, Abigail and Len Fenerman start dating. Susie is aware that Abigail never intended to be a mother and that she is using this affair to avoid Susie’s passing.

Jack’s left leg is still stiff when he gets home. Abigail drifts away from her kids as she grows preoccupied with her motherly duties. On the day before Thanksgiving, Lynn visits Abigail and observes a change in her, but she understands she can only support her in whatever course of action she chooses.

As Lindsey begins to suspect George Harvey in the same way as her father, she enters his home and discovers a sketch of where he killed Susie. When Mr. Harvey gets home, Lindsey manages to jump out the window. Mr. Harvey reports a break-in to the police. Meanwhile, Len Fenerman and Abigail meet up in the mall, where they finish their relationship. Later, Len discovers he lost his chance to grab George Harvey as he departs the city that evening.

A memorial ceremony for Susie is held in the cornfield on the first anniversary of her passing. Although Jack, Buckley, and Lindsey attend, Abigail does not. The following summer, Abigail departs from the family and finds employment at a California winery. Grandma Lynn stays over to assist Jack with the kids and the house. As he ages, Buckley decides to construct a fort in the backyard to memorialize Susie. Although Len Fenerman now thinks George Harvey committed the murder, he is nowhere to be found, and there are hints that he may be connected to other homicides in other states.

Following their graduation from college, Lindsey, and Samuel decide to be hitched and relocate to an ancient home they found. Jack experiences a heart attack shortly after that and needs to be taken to the hospital. For the first time in more than five years, Abigail returns. She slowly decides to stay after realizing she still loves Jack.


What is The Lovely Bones about?

The Lovely Bones is about a young girl named Susie Salmon who is murdered and watches over her family from the afterlife, while her family copes with grief and seeks justice for her death.

Is The Lovely Bones a true story?

No, it’s a work of fiction. While the story is not based on real events, it deals with emotions and experiences that people might go through in similar situations.

What genre is The Lovely Bones?

It’s a mix of psychological thriller, coming-of-age, and fiction. The story combines elements of suspense, emotions, and growing up.

How does the story alternate between perspectives?

The story shifts between Susie’s perspective in the afterlife and the perspectives of her family and friends as they try to move forward after her death.

Is The Lovely Bones suitable for young readers?

The book deals with mature themes like murder and grief, so it’s more appropriate for older readers, such as teenagers and adults.

Where does The Lovely Bones take place?

The story is set in suburban Pennsylvania during the 1970s.

About the Author-Alice Sebold

The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold
Full NameAlice Sebold
Birth DateSeptember 6, 1963
BirthplaceMadison, Wisconsin, USA
Notable Works“The Lovely Bones”, “Lucky: A Memoir”
“The Almost Moon”

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