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Thread: The Lovely Bones Discussion Questions

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    Why Not Us? greenie's Avatar
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    The Lovely Bones Discussion Questions

    Here are some questions for people to ponder once they've read The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold.

    1.In Susie's Heaven, she is surrounded by things that bring her peace. What would your Heaven be like? Is it surprising that in Susie's inward, personal version of the hereafter there is no God or larger being that presides?

    2.Why does Ruth become Susie's main connection to Earth? Was it accidental that Susie touched Ruth on her way up to Heaven, or was Ruth actually chosen to be Susie's emotional conduit?

    3.Rape is one of the most alienating experiences imaginable. Susie's rape ends in murder and changes her family and friends forever. Alienation is transferred, in a sense, to Susie's parents and siblings. How do they each experience loneliness and solitude after Susie's death?

    4.Why does the author include details about Mr. Harvey's childhood and his memories of his mother? By giving him a human side, does Sebold get us closer to understanding his motivation? Sebold explained in an interview about the novel that murderers "are not animals but men," and that is what makes them so frightening. Do you agree?

    5.Discuss the way in which guilt manifests itself in the various characters - Jack, Abigail, Lindsay, Mr. Harvey, Len Fenerman.

    6."Pushing on the inbetween" is how Susie describes her efforts to connect with those she has left behind on Earth. Have you ever felt as though someone was trying to communicate with you from "the inbetween"?

    7.Does Buckley really see Susie, or does he make up a version of his sister as a way of understanding, and not being too emotionally damaged by, her death? How do you explain tragedy to a child? Do you think Susie's parents do a good job of helping Buckley comprehend the loss of his sister?

    8.Susie is killed just as she was beginning to see her mother and father as real people, not just as parents. Watching her parents' relationship change in the wake of her death, she begins to understand how they react to the world and to each other. How does this newfound understanding affect Susie?

    9.Can Abigail's choice to leave her family be justified?

    10.Why does Abigail leave her dead daughter's photo outside the Chicago Airport on her way back to her family?

    11.Susie observes that "The living deserve attention, too." She watches her sister, Lindsay, being neglected as those around her focus all their attention on grieving for Susie. Jack refuses to allow Buckley to use Susie's clothes in his garden. When is it time to let go?

    12.Susie's Heaven seems to have different stages, and climbing to the next stage of Heaven requires her to remove herself from what happens on Earth. What is this process like for Susie?

    13.In The Lovely Bones, adult relationships (Abigail and Jack, Ray's parents) are dysfunctional and troubled, whereas the young relationships (Lindsay and Samuel, Ray and Susie, Ray and Ruth) all seem to have depth, maturity, and potential. What is the author saying about young love? About the trials and tribulations of married life?

    14.Is Jack Salmon allowing himself to be swallowed up by his grief? Is there a point where he should have let go? How does his grief process affect his family? Is there something admirable about holding on so tightly to Susie's memory and not denying his profound sadness?

    15.Ray and Susie's final physical experience (via Ruth's body) seems to act almost as an exorcism that sweeps away, if only temporarily, Susie's memory of her rape. What is the significance of this act for Susie, and does it serve to counterbalance the violent act that ended Susie's life?

    16.Alice Sebold seems to be saying that out of tragedy comes healing. Susie's family fractures and comes back together, a town learns to find strength in each other. Do you agree that good can come of great trauma?

    17.Why does Ruth become Susie's main connection to Earth? Was it accidental that Susie touched Ruth on her way up to Heaven, or was Ruth actually chosen to be Susie's emotional conduit?

    I got these questions courtesy of http://www.readinggroupguides.com/gu...ely_bones1.asp
    Last edited by greenie; 07-08-2003 at 12:16 PM.
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    You don't have to answer all of these, just feel free to discuss any that feel compelling to you. I'll touch on a couple of the ones that interest me later.
    I know someday you'll have a beautiful life, I know you'll be a star in somebody else's eyes... but why... why... why can't it be me?

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    The Truth Is Out There ixcrisxi's Avatar
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    16.Alice Sebold seems to be saying that out of tragedy comes healing. Susie's family fractures and comes back together, a town learns to find strength in each other. Do you agree that good can come of great trauma?


    I would have to say yes. I totally agree. In my life (all 15 years of it ), I've seen grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins and nephews die. All of which I knew enough to have a hole set inside me when I heard the news. Some of them I still don't know how they died. The unknown hurts even more. I realize now, though, that because of those deaths, I am closer to my family (immediate and far-away). All of those deaths made me realize how lucky I am to have my parents together with my sisters and all the family surrounding us.

    In a less-spiritual way, this year, I let my grades slip in school a ton. Almost to a point where there was no hope of bringing them back up. That made me think to try harder. Trust me, in my family, bad grades are like the sky falling. Now, I try so much harder to get what I need to get done done before it is too late.
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    can i have your heart? unexplained's Avatar
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    Firstly, I think it’s great that greenflute and hazy opened a discussion thread.

    Questions that interest me and I would like to give my opinion on:

    9.Can Abigail's choice to leave her family be justified?

    I didn’t read much into Abigail leaving the family but I want to comment about her infidelity.
    It is suprising to me that as much as I want to blame her for committing adultery, I don’t view her infidelity as absolutely wrong. Somewhere, amidst reading the novel, I look upon her infidelity as something she did to express her sorrow and grief for Susie. Maybe it is not something ethical but in times of great tragedy and in a situation of extreme hopelessness, Abigail’s reaching out to Len was a way out of her sadness. Anyway, her relationship with Len didn’t last long enough to cost any serious trouble to her already fragile marriage.
    You select the person you want to be with, and then you let that person have the opportunity to select you. -Shayla

    "The mind is its own place, and in it, self can make a Heav'n of Hell, a Hell of Heav'n." -John Milton, Paradise Lost.

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    FORT Fogey eldee's Avatar
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    16.Alice Sebold seems to be saying that out of tragedy comes healing. Susie's family fractures and comes back together, a town learns to find strength in each other. Do you agree that good can come of great trauma?
    ****************************** ***********************
    Yes, I believe in the possibility of it, but that doesn't always happen. Anyone could have become an alcoholic, clinically depressed, or a villian.

    In this novel, Lindsey became very strong and independent. Although, the situation was not ideal to childhood, she did benefit from her strength, which helped her to steal a clue/evidence. She was also able to later deal with her mother's abandonment while still being available to start a relationship with Samuel. Jack and his children became a tightly knitted in an effort to support one another and the grandmoter devoted herself to them after her daughter deserted the family. If the grandmother stayed separate from them, she might not have had such a rich and meaningful life. Abigail had distanced herself from an early point in the story. I don't know if she would have ever reconciled with her husband if it were not for his heart attack. Her extra marital relationship later provided little for either one involved. They were both left hollow and did not benefit from that relationship. The children also paired up quickly for support both emotionally and sexually and were able to grow from their alliance/relationship.

    The novel had more positive examples of people getting together for support than running away.

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    FORT Fogey eldee's Avatar
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    9. Can Abigail's choice to leave her family be justified?
    ****************************** ********
    Although, she was expressing her grief, her desertion can not be justified. It was at a time when they all needed each other the most. Although she was in deep pain, so were the others. She knew her husband was obsessed, got hurt and could have gotten in deep trouble with the law, however, she left the 2 minor children with him. I don't recall when she tried to find comfort in her family after it was stated to be a murder and no longer a missing person. He husband tried to give her hope and comfort. When it came to physicality, she denied it to him, but gave it away elsewhere. When she cheated on her husband, she did it to her family too. It appeared that her mother offered her assistance through her own initiative.

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    eternal optimist Shazzer's Avatar
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    Great questions, Ms. Uber-Cool Greenflute.

    I picked two for now.

    4.Why does the author include details about Mr. Harvey's childhood and his memories of his mother? By giving him a human side, does Sebold get us closer to understanding his motivation? Sebold explained in an interview about the novel that murderers "are not animals but men," and that is what makes them so frightening. Do you agree?

    After reading about Mr. Harvey’s childhood, it still felt lacking to me in helping people understand how he could become so severely gruesome as an adult. I.e. his childhood didn’t seem as severe as say, the life of the child in “A Child Called It” by David Pelzer, so I didn’t feel like the motivation for his adult life and the severity of his actions was quite strong enough, (not that it was any kind of picnic, but murdering for pleasure seemed a big leap from his childhood). Besides his childhood, one trigger for him seeming more human was when he sat in the basement staring at the animal bones and Susie says she understands that he killed those animals in an effort to control himself, and stop himself from going after humans. But seeing his life every day, and his interest in structures and doll houses made him seem like a human, an off-kilter wacko human, yes, but a rounded character nonetheless. And yes, I agree that the most frightening thing about dangerous people is that they are human, and can blend with society. People expect to see monsters commit crimes, but in reality, these are real people with odd motivations who make strange choices. I've had the misfortune of being on the receiving end of different crimes and in every instance, these men looked like completely rosey-cheeked, normal, well-dressed could-be-your-brother-or-grandpa people until they committed their crime.

    16.Alice Sebold seems to be saying that out of tragedy comes healing. Susie's family fractures and comes back together, a town learns to find strength in each other. Do you agree that good can come of great trauma?

    I think good can come out of trauma, but that you don’t need trauma for good to blossom either. I think good can develop in any circumstance, and it can develop in healthy situations as easily as it can in tragic circumstances. The good news is that trauma doesn’t have to end the good in life, and perhaps that’s the point. I.e. do they “need” the trauma in order to receive good/growth/blossoming? No. But does the trauma stop the development of these things? No.
    Last edited by Shazzer; 07-10-2003 at 12:08 PM.
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    FORT Fogey eldee's Avatar
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    4.Why does the author include details about Mr. Harvey's childhood and his memories of his mother? By giving him a human side, does Sebold get us closer to understanding his motivation? Sebold explained in an interview about the novel that murderers "are not animals but men," and that is what makes them so frightening. Do you agree?
    ****************************** ********
    I too did not see how his childhood propelled him into raping and killing a six year old and becoming a serial killer.

    Yes, it is very frightening that an unassuming man/woman could be a murderer. As a relative told me, "don't try to figure people out. Not everyone is the same as you." Also, in the move 8mm, the snuff killer basically said something about how he does not look like a monster and had a happy childhood. There was no reason for why he kills and enjoys what he does.

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    The new me! Feifer's Avatar
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    10.Why does Abigail leave her dead daughter's photo outside the Chicago Airport on her way back to her family?

    Abigail left Susie's photo outside of the airport because she was ready to move onto a different phase of her grieving. She needed closure. She was leaving the baggage of her daughter's rape and murder behind and possibly all of her actions following those events and making a fresh start for a healthier life back home. She was going home to be a part of her family again and try to heal with them as best she could. The picture represented everything that was askew and holding on to it was keeping her from moving forward. Finally letting her daughter go was allowing her to move on as well. I really do not think that Abigail could have gone home holding on to that much emotional junk.
    It occurred to me that no matter how bleak things might seem at times, at least I have a head. ----Stargazer

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    FORT Fogey eldee's Avatar
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    Questions for Alice Sebold

    If you could ask Alice Sebold a question re: The Lovely Bones, what would it be?

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