“Basically what we have here is a dreamer. Somebody out of touch with reality. When she jumped, she probably thought she’d fly.”
- The Virgin Suicides, Jeffrey Eugenides
I don’t know why I put off reading The Virgin Suicides for so long when it’s managed to become a household name. To not have read it would be like sacrilege! But I’m glad I got around to reading it, and I made sure to do so at a decent time of day because whyyy would I bother to read something so disturbing just as I’m about to go to bed?
This book has “spookfest” written all over it. It’s not a horror story in essence, but the book adopts a very dark atmosphere from the get go.
Jeffrey Eugenides’ debut novel is set in a Michigan neighborhood in the early 70s. It primarily recounts tragedies concerning the Lisbon family: Ronald, a teacher, married to an unnamed homemaker, and their five daughters, Therese, 17, Mary, 16, Bonnie, 15, Lux, 14, and Cecilia, 13.
The book begins with mention of the last of the Lisbon sisters’ suicide episode, already suggestive that the other four are to take their lives at some point in the book. Cecilia, the youngest and in my opinion the most peculiar of the five (she was always in a wedding dress), is the first to go. Her first attempt (in which she slit both her wrists) is unsuccessful, and so she takes a family thrown party as an opportunity to try again. Cecilia excuses herself from the gathering, and later on throws herself out the window.
The neighborhood then busies itself with gossip, centered mostly on Cecilia’s death and the Lisbon family’s affairs. Throughout the book it is clear that the (anonymous) narrators are extremely consumed with the Lisbon girls, having given them (too) much thought even years after their respective suicides. How crazy were the narrators to as much as even gather “evidence” on the Lisbon family up until their hairlines thinned and their bellies softened?
In The Virgin Suicides, the series of events were detailed by either one or many adolescent boys who fussed over the Lisbon sisters, deliberately or not. It had been part of their day-to-day tasks to look over at the Lisbon house; why exactly they were enamored by the sisters was left for the reader to work out.
I thought the book was very Desperate Housewives-y in nature, what with neighbors concerning themselves with whatever is left in the open, as well as with what transpires behind closed doors. The reading experience was very engaging and effective; it was as if the narrators were giving readers prime access into the neighborhood dirt.
The title of the book was derived from a song by the fictional band Cruel Crux, a favorite of Lux’s. Unlike her sisters who died virgins, promiscuous Lux led a very active sex life, and was often the sister who boys fell head over heels for.
This book deals with several themes such as adolescence, family, lost innocence, suicide, love, and terror, all of which Eugenides was able to so intricately piece together. So if you are looking for a compelling read, The Virgin Suicides is most recommended. It’s packed with so much mystery and tension, that among the many things I took away from it was a heavy heart!
I haven’t seen Sofia Coppola’s take on this deeply haunting book, so I went on Youtube for the movie trailer. It’s definitely creepy, too! Go see for yourself. (I will forever love Josh Hartnett but ew at the long hair.)
Book cover was grabbed from the Internet.