My name is Salmon, like the fish; first name, Susie. I was fourteen when I was murdered on December 6, 1973 [page 5].
Our last novel is not a typical contemporary novel like Wish You Well; while there is a death, it is not accidental like Diamond's or natural like Louisa May's. It is not a typical mystery like Snow Falling on Cedars; we know who Susie's murderer is, and so does Susie. It is not a typical romance like Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress, although Susie does get a love note from Ray, and-- through an amazing gift from a friend--she DOES get to know what love feels like. It is not a typical coming of age novel like The Secret Life of Bees; Susie will never be older than 14. The Lovely Bones is not a typical fantasy--there are no elves or fairies, but the the premise is somewhat fantastical: it begins with the narrator informing us of her name and of a startling fact for a first-person narrator--she has been murdered, and she is telling us her story from her heaven....
Maybe The Lovely Bones is a fable for our times, a story that could belong to any one of hundreds of thousands of faces on milk cartons: MISSING! It is the story of what happens AFTER Susie is murdered, and we are along for an adventure that is based on the concept of there being life after death, in more ways than one.
This week, you should finish the novel as we will be watching the movie next week, and it is quite different from the novel. While you are reading, you are tasked with answering any of the following questions:
- How does this narrative point of view [the narrator has been murdered and is not alive, in the normal sense of the word, as she tells us her story] affect the plot?
- Most of you have already commented upon Mr. Harvey--you do not like him. If he is so "creepy," how does he manage to lull so many of his victims into trusting him? Is there a lesson for us as readers in this?
- Often when someone dies, the survivors closest to the deceased have a need to prove to themselves that they feel something in their grief. Susie's father, Jack, needs to find Susie's killer--hence his questioning of Ray Singh and Ray's mother and his focus on Mr. Harvey. Susie's mother, Abigail, needs to feel love--hence her affair with Len Fenerman. Susie's sister, Lindsey, seems to need to feel useful--hence her breaking into Mr. Harvey's house. Susie's brother, Buckley, was quite young when she died, but he needs things to be "normal" again, and that will not happen for a long time. Does his gardening satisfy some need to create life? Grandma Lynn needs to feel needed, and she moves in with Jack and Buckley after Abbie leaves them. What do you think of these characters and their coping strategies? Do these characters seem realistic in their responses to Susie's murder?
- Then there's Ruth.... On my way out of Earth, I touched a girl named Ruth. She went to my school, but we had never been close. She was standing in my path that night when my soul shrieked out of Earth.... When I streaked by her, my hand leapt out to touch her, touch the last face, feel the last connection to Earth in this not-so-standard-issue teenage girl [pages 36-37]. Ruth and Susie have an incredible connection from that time forward although one is here, and the other is "in-between." What purpose do you think this connection serves in this novel? How does their connection help Susie? How does it affect Ruth? How does it affect Ray?
- Do you think that Susie had anything to do with Mr. Harvey's death? Think about the clues you have been given throughout the novel.... Can you make a case for her responsibility one way or the other?
- Finally, there are several items in the story which could be considered symbolic--the charm bracelet and its charms; the Monopoly "shoe" game piece; the snow globe with the penguin. What might any of these objects symbolize? What makes you think this?
OK, you have until Friday midnight to respond with a 250-300 word post in order to earn credit for the first half of this required activity. You may have other questions you would like to raise for classmates--include them in your post! Next, you will need to respond substantially to at least one classmate's post by Monday [June 1st] at midnight in order to earn credit for the second half of this required activity.
Teacher Barb :)