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The Virgin Suicides

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'The Virgin Suicides' is the story of the disintegration of an American family in 1970s suburban Michigan. The five Lisbon sisters are embalmed in the memories of the boys who worshipped them and who, twenty years on, recall their adolescence.

355 pages, Hardcover

First published January 1, 1993

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About the author

Jeffrey Eugenides

33 books8,790 followers
Jeffrey Kent Eugenides is an American Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist and short story writer of Greek and Irish extraction.

Eugenides was born in Detroit, Michigan, of Greek and Irish descent. He attended Grosse Pointe's private University Liggett School. He took his undergraduate degree at Brown University, graduating in 1983. He later earned an M.A. in Creative Writing from Stanford University.

In 1986 he received the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences Nicholl Fellowship for his story "Here Comes Winston, Full of the Holy Spirit". His 1993 novel, The Virgin Suicides, gained mainstream interest with the 1999 film adaptation directed by Sofia Coppola. The novel was reissued in 2009.

Eugenides is reluctant to appear in public or disclose details about his private life, except through Michigan-area book signings in which he details the influence of Detroit and his high-school experiences on his writings. He has said that he has been haunted by the decline of Detroit.

Jeffrey Eugenides lives in Princeton, New Jersey, with his wife, the photographer and sculptor Karen Yamauchi, and their daughter. In the fall of 2007, Eugenides joined the faculty of Princeton University's Program in Creative Writing.

His 2002 novel, Middlesex, won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction and the Ambassador Book Award. Part of it was set in Berlin, Germany, where Eugenides lived from 1999 to 2004, but it was chiefly concerned with the Greek-American immigrant experience in the United States, against the rise and fall of Detroit. It explores the experience of the intersexed in the USA. Eugenides has also published short stories.

Eugenides is the editor of the collection of short stories titled My Mistress's Sparrow is Dead. The proceeds of the collection go to the writing center 826 Chicago, established to encourage young people's writing.


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5 stars
80,789 (28%)
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3 stars
69,556 (24%)
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Displaying 1 - 30 of 15,654 reviews
19 reviews77 followers
January 15, 2008
suicide isn't the happiest of topics. the suicides of five sisters is even less pleasant. how do you recommend a book to someone on such a grim topic? easy: just read it.

what eugenides does so well is capture the mystery of secluded sisters, as seen through the eyes of neighborhood boys. this is important in reading the novel. it's not necessarily the lisbon sisters' story, but rather the boys' story, and how the suicides affected them all the way into adulthood (the boys are now men and they retell their story). they've never fully recovered from the events of that year, as evidenced by the carefully catalogued and numbered evidence they've collected over the years (faded photographs, scraps of paper, newspaper clippings, etc). it's as though their growth and development from boys to men has been permanently stunted, and it's something of a tragedy to read. euginedes' use of a vague narrator allows the reader to actively participate in the mystery and confusion as the boys try to come to terms with the deaths. the narrator(s) alway refer to themselves as "we," and never "i," drawing the reader in with them. we don't know who's speaking. it could be any of 10-12 boys. it's a particularly useful way of letting the reader experience the same gamut of emotions as the boys. by the end of the book i was every bit affected the same way the boys were and are.

beyond the subject of suicide, there's also some very insightful social commentary on how death (particularly suicides) affect not only specific individuals, but communities as well. the narrator(s), for example, notice how all the leaves went unraked during the fall after the first four sisters kill themselves. there's also mention about a day of mourning and an assembly at school, and one boy comments how he felt like they were supposed to feel badly for everything that ever happened...ever. how do adults explain suicide to children? eugenides expertly taps into what it's like to try to grapple with and understand something completely beyond understanding. how do we process suicide and death? can we? should we? i don't think it's beyond reason to make comparisons to 'hamlet' or other literature where 'ghosts' figure prominently. for all intents and purposes, these men are still boys under the spell of five ghosts. it's a thought-provoking novel and one that stays with the reader well after closing its pages, just as the lisbon sisters still haunt the memory of the neighborhood boys.

perhaps the most impressive aspect of the novel is the prose itself. mr. eugenides can write. my copy of the book is nearly worn out from all the markings i've made. there are passages that made me jump off my bed and shout at the sky. his prose is as shiny as a newly minted coin. it's as though every word were precisely chosen, every sentence carefully constructed (and i imagine they were). the novel reminds the reader of the printed word's power. i don't know how much eugenides got for his soul (for surely there was *some* sort of bargain with the devil), but i hope it was a hefty sum.

unfortunately quality literature seems to be in short supply these days. however, i think it's safe to say that after two books jeffrey eugenides has joined a gradually declining crop of truly great, living, american authors (roth, delillo, morrison, updike, among a few others) and is well on his way to an illustrious, prolific, literary career.

this is one of the few books i read more than once. each time i read it i hope to glean some insight into the 'why' of suicide, yet knowning it will never be so. so i'll just keep reading it over and over and try to understand, just as the boys continue to congregate, go over the evidence, seek closure and try to become men.
Profile Image for Linda.
27 reviews2 followers
May 4, 2011
I simply didn't get this book. I was so desperate to find hidden meaning in it, but there was nothing. Why waste so much paper and ink on something so overtly pretentious and so utterly meaningless? A group of oppressed sisters kill themselves after flirting with the neighborhood boys. How horrible that it happened in the middle of suburban America, where white picket fences are supposed to render such neighborhoods impermeable to tragic teenage death. In the end, all I got from this book was the fact that the girls were peculiar (and hello! at least one was not a virgin when she committed suicide), the boys were immature, the girls' parents were psychotic. Okay, sure, I get that there may have been metaphors and themes about the hypocrisy of middle America, oppressive religion, etc. etc., but I wasn't impressed. I saw Sofia Coppola's film afterward; no, it did not improve my understanding or appreciation of the film.

I had read Middlesex by Eugenides and thought he was a genius. This book proved he is only an occasional genius. Sadness.
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Profile Image for Kat.
256 reviews78.7k followers
September 18, 2020
i'm gonna need a minute...
Profile Image for Jen.
159 reviews15 followers
September 29, 2007
This book is like a preface, where the real book never feels like it begins. Endless foreshadowing mixed in with various teenage boy obsessions about what a home with five daughters must entail...boxes and boxes of tampons, etc. I couldn't wait for these girls to kill themselves just so the book would be over.
Profile Image for emma.
1,785 reviews43k followers
December 15, 2022
Hello, and welcome to my review of the book that made everyone both online and in my real life worry about me!

I've never gotten so many follow-up messages about a review than when I said I was reading this one as a cry for help. Made me understand why people fake personal crises for attention.

The book being good was just a bonus.

When I first read this book (2016, about a week before my graduation from high school, probably also as a cry for help), I didn't really Get It. And I don't feel bad about that, because a) it's fairly subtly done, b) I was 18, and c) judging by my fellow Goodreads reviews a lot of you bozos didn't get it either.

Sorry to call you bozos. I didn't mean you.

Unless you're someone who read this whole book and somehow came out of it thinking Eugenides wants you to believe in and support our collective male narrator. Then to you I say: Read with a critical eye after Googling the words "unreliable narrator" and maybe "satire." Bozo.

If you like hate-able narrators and interesting perspective choices and pretty writing and disturbing images that will stick with you for years...this is the book for you.

(There is one image in particular that has been seared into my mind since i first read it all those years ago. And I doubt it will ever find the mercy to leave me be.)

I also think this fits well with the current renaissance of sad girl reads - we stan a book for being ahead of its time - but if you read it for this reason you should be aware that this isn't the sad girls' story, and yet it is.

This is a book about what it feels like to be a teenage girl through the lens of a group of boys who don't get it, don't want to, don't care. It's a book about all the sh*t that boys get away with and all the sh*t girls go through from the perspective of the boys who don't realize either thing. It's from the perspective of the boys because the author is trusting you to see through it.

I have to wonder if all these negative reviews think Sofia Coppola made the point of this book up, just because she made it more obvious?

Bottom line: A classic!


rereading as a cry for help

update: it has come to my attention that, due to the title of this book, multiple people have viewed this review as a significantly more serious cry for help than i intended.

please know that the cry for help in question is simply starting my week by reading devastating 20 year old lit fic. also, and more importantly, note that the title would imply i was calling myself a virgin, and i would never refer to myself as a virgin on the internet, which is permanent.

review to come / 4 stars
Profile Image for Matthew.
1,219 reviews8,691 followers
April 15, 2018
I had to take some time after reading this and do some deep thinking before I could review. It is such an unusual story - good, but dark and full of nooks and crannies for skeletons and other vermin to hide. It is hard to say I enjoyed a story like this - that would be like saying I enjoyed a car wreck; intriguing, but lots of people and property were damaged in the process.

One main thing I can say is I don't think I have seen the main story take as much of a back seat to the setting, the symbolism, and the side characters. The book is "The Virgin Suicides", but they might be the least important, as well as the most important, part of the book. Are you confused yet?

Setting: The neighborhood, the houses, the tree house, the school. Description of buildings. The importance of a location. Certain windows serving as stages into the performance of people's lives. All very complex and interesting.

Coated in muck: Throughout the book things are covered in dust, slime, dead bugs, etc. Everything is made to seem like it is coated, and a deeper truth is underneath. And, I think it is important that the "coating" is never pretty. Things aren't coated in sugar, or clouds, or pretty makeup. It is always foul, stinking, decaying, etc.

Symbolism - As the story deteriorates, so do the structures and the people. Buildings decay. People become more and more unstable. Every element spirals into a gloomy miasma and it moves towards the ultimate sad climax.

The boys - the boys in the story serving as narrators really kept making me think of Stand By Me or The Sandlot. Coming of age. Looking into other people's lives. Trying to figure things out while wrapped in the innocence of youth. It was a very intriguing approach to telling the story.

I think that many will enjoy this. Just remember that it is dark and somewhat disturbing. Not something to read while looking for a pick me up!
Profile Image for Blair.
1,730 reviews4,081 followers
July 9, 2015
Honestly, I really wanted to fall in love with this. I've long been aware of its status as a cult classic and many people I know, as well as people I don't know but whose taste seems to correspond closely with mine, have professed to adore it. So I feel a bit uncomfortable about revealing that I disliked it - I'll admit, I have been guilty of judging people a bit if I see they've slated a book I really love, and this seems to be a book that has a lot of meaning for many readers - but, there you go, I can't help it.

I DO 'get' a lot of the things people love about the story - the hazy, filmic quality of the writing, the sense of indefinable loss and nostalgia for childhood, the effective use of first-person-plural narrative, the clever structure with the obsessive boys cataloguing every shred of information they can find about the Lisbon girls and collating it into a sort of testament. But I didn't get much enjoyment from reading it. The tone reminded me a lot - A LOT - of The Lovely Bones, which I also disliked, and I presume this book must have been a major infuence on Alice Sebold's style. Some of the descriptive language seemed identical(ly ridiculous), for example the inventory of items thrown out from the Lisbons' house including 'blankets sopped with the picnic of the girls' spilled sleep' - what?! I felt repulsed by a lot of it - the descriptions, the characters - and the general queasy atmosphere made me feel quite ill. I know this is probably a part of what some appreciate, but I couldn't get into it at all. With the narrators seeming so odd, and the Lisbon sisters so distanced from them through the way they are idolised and analysed, I didn't feel a connection with anyone or anything in the story.

Thinking about it, this also might be because the characters' everyday experiences were so completely removed from anything I remember about being a teenager, so I didn't find any of it to be something I could relate to either. I know you're not supposed to understand why the Lisbons killed themselves, but as someone who was severely depressed and at times suicidal at that age myself, it all rang so hollow to me and I couldn't shake the feeling that the book itself (as opposed to just the narrators) was romanticising suicide. This is particularly evident in a passage towards the end, discussing the girls attending a debutante party after the suicides: 'they were bound for college, husbands, child-rearing, unhappiness only dimly perceived - bound, in other words, for life.' So the Lisbons got the better end of the deal, I suppose, by escaping from this predestined boredom and misery early? I also couldn't suspend my disbelief enough to accept that ALL THESE MEN would remain so obsessed with the Lisbon girls for the rest of their lives - the bits about always thinking of Lux during sex, etc. Yes, it's believable that being a witness to the suicides of five young sisters would haunt them for a long time, but surely by middle age at least some of them would have moved past it? Surely they wouldn't still be continually fantasising about the early fumblings of a 14-year-old as grown men?! And if any of this is supposed to be at all romantic, I just found it downright weird. By the end I was so, so sick of their tedious obsession.

Not for me.
Profile Image for Julie G .
858 reviews2,638 followers
June 28, 2019
Once, when I was 13, my father came home early from work and asked to see my yearbook. It was the last day of junior high, and I remember that I leaned against the kitchen counter, cracking my knuckles, and watched as he slowly turned the glossy pages, reading all of the comments that had been written by my friends.

He was silent the entire time he was reading, but when he finished, he handed me back my yearbook and said, “I loved being a teenager, but I wouldn't be one now for anything in the world.”

I thought I was going to receive a lecture that evening, but I didn't. To this day, I have wondered what spurred on his sudden interest in my social life and my friends. Had he read an article about the rise of teen suicide?

My father had been a teenager in the late 1950s; his kids became teenagers in the 1980s. I can only imagine it was a very different experience for him.

He was born 20 years before the author of this book, Jeffrey Eugenides, but they both grew up in the U.S., in the Midwest, and both of them experienced childhoods that were heavily influenced by the auto industry.

They also both watched a lot of changes occur in the U.S., not the least of these being the confusing shifts in the lives of American adolescents.

And I wish, wish, WISH that my father had discovered Mr. Eugenides and this UNBELIEVABLE, FANTASTIC, INCREDIBLY ORIGINAL debut novel before he passed, because he'd have been shaking his head in a stunned disbelief.

Dad never knew Mr. Eugenides, but I do, and his Pulitzer-Prize winning Middlesex just about knocked me out. He's one hell of a writer, and he seems to capture the decline of American society without judgement, rant or sociological nudge.

He's a storyteller who tells his tales, these deceptively simple stories that make you stop whatever you're doing, curl your toes, bite your nails, giggle into your hands or shout. . . HOW IS THIS YOUR DEBUT?! HOW IS THIS YOUR DEBUT, MR. EUGENIDES??!! NO, SERIOUSLY, HOW IS THIS YOUR DEBUT?

And then he makes you cover your eyes with a cold compress and weep quietly into your pillow. . . I don't hate you, Mr. Eugenides. I'm sorry. I'm so, so sorry. I don't hate you, Jeffrey. In fact, I love you. Oh, I love you, Jeffrey. Oh, Jeffrey, I love you. . . as your family looks on in horror.

People, I could write essay after essay about this book. I could stick quote after quote of brilliant prose on here. . . but all I want to do is tell you that after I finished it this evening, I could only curl up in a tight ball of jealousy and awe and suck my thumb.
Profile Image for Claudia Lomelí.
Author 8 books73k followers
March 15, 2022
Sí tengo varias cosas qué decir al respecto, pero en general pues... no me gustó.
Profile Image for Ariel.
301 reviews64.2k followers
August 3, 2016
I don't even really know what to say. I think maybe a few people are going to be disappointed that I didn't give this five stars, and I mean, I'm upset that it wasn't five stars either, but hear me out.

The thing I liked the most about this book is the perspective. We're learning about 5 girls who commit suicide.. and we NEVER hear anything substantial from any of the sisters? It was genius. The way this book was written is brilliant. Honestly, every couple of pages I would think to myself "When Jeffrey Eugenides thought to himself that he should write this from the outside view he had one of the best epiphanies ever. Ever." The second thing I liked was the realism. This book is just so true, so pure. It isn't false in anyway, it states it how it is: sad and depressing and demoralizing and harsh and upsetting. But true.

Why didn't I love this book? I don't know. I honestly, I don't know. There was something missing. Maybe it was my disconnect from the story, maybe it was my lack of real care for any of the events or characters, or maybe it was the lack of plot.

When I'm true to myself, I could act like this was the best book, I could write and essay about how life altering this book is, but it's a lie. Maybe for other people it is that, but for me it wasn't. Sometimes, you just don't connect to a book, and I didn't. I don't know.
Profile Image for Debbie Petersen Wolven.
252 reviews99 followers
September 12, 2008
Where to begin. I have read some of the reviews of others who did not care for or get this book. I admit that the plot/storyline, though unique, is not what makes this story great--it's the prose. The writing is luminous and reads more like poetry than a novel. We don't even know exactly who the narrators are--it is narrated in first person plural and the name and even number of narrators is left vague. Eugenides uses metaphor to describe the deaths of the sisters as the disintegration of a suburban neighborhood--the trees are being cut down because of the threat of Dutch Elm disease; there are dying flies everywhere that are described by the first sister to commit suicide as not even having time to eat before their lives are over. There are so many themes in the story--going through the layers is akin to peeling an onion. The writing is so lovely that it induces a dreamlike state in the reader. Everything is described so perfectly that you can not only see clearly what is being described, but smell the various smells and recall with clarity everything from that time period. Eugenides did not throw this book together; in my mind's eye I see him sitting at his desk turning each phrase over and over in his hands until he gets it exactly right. Yet, the writing is not strained at all--in fact, it seems to have flowed effortlessly from his pen. This is a gifted writer whose work will be read for generations to come, long after Eat, Pray, Gag is in the remainder pile. Elizabeth Gilbert, Chris Bohjalian, Jodi Picoult, Robert James Waller, John Grisham, read this and weep. To this list I add myself, since I would give anything to be able to write half as well as Eugenides. As for those who look for a conventional plot line like all of the other books out there and do not find it (why EXACTLY did the girls kill themselves?) In the real world, not everything in life can be explained.

I loved the book so much that I immediately rented the movie. It was awful, with the exception of James Wood who nailed the part of the father beautifully.
Profile Image for K.D. Absolutely.
1,820 reviews
April 28, 2011
For me, what makes this novel different from those that I’ve read so far is the narrator’s voice: first person plural and the brilliant way Jeffrey Eugenides (born 1960) made use of it. Since the story is about 5 teenage sisters and the narrators were interested on them, readers presumed that they were narrating from the viewpoint of schoolboys with raging hormones and think of sex almost every hour of the day. Until the last sentence when Eugenides revealed that the narrators are already middle-age men with thinning hair and soft bellies. My perception of the story as a reader made a complete turnaround. Being a middle age man myself and having a teenager daughter, the last page upped the story’s impact on me.

The collective voice of the narrators who are voyeurs of the Lisbon family oozes with innocence (of being young and sexually curious) and guilt (of being voyeurs who did not do anything to save the sisters). If you read this novel in a superficial manner, this is just about 5 young sisters (13-year-old Cecilia, 14-year-old Lux, 15-year-old Bonnie, 16-year-old Mary, and 17-year-old Therese) who killed themselves because of their very strict mother and workaholic submissive effeminate father. They probably lost all hopes of having a good future like finishing school after they were pulled out just because Lux missed the curfew or finding a rich man to marry since they were not allowed to go out anymore.

But Eugenides, having an M.A. in Creative Writing from Stanford University, knew better. It would have been too simple for a story to be all about that. In the narration, the boys said that the suicides were act of “selfishness” as the girls were at the brink of adulthood, pretty hence possible sexual preys. They fantasized about having sex with them and even kept with them the “exhibits” that even in their mid-lives still remind them of how they felt towards those pretty young things. The boys thought that they were innocent but the fact that they were watching the Lisbon house through their binoculars, they were communicating with them via songs played on the telephone, the girls were leaving notes posted on the bicycle wheels or in the mailboxes did not give them the inkling to help to prevent the eventual group suicides. They just watched and did nothing. In effect, the boys were the selfish ones and the guilt that permeates in them in their middle-age is what Eugenides, in my opinion, wants to communicate with this novel. Cecilia’s suicide forewarned the narrators. Forewarned the people of small town of GrossPointe, Michigan. Some paid attention: the priest, the social worker. But in the end those were just not enough. The Lisbon sisters committed suicide with the blood left on the hands of the boys and the whole town.

And the creepiest thing there is that since Eugenides used "we" and "us" and realizing in the end that those narrators were not teenage kids but were middle-age men, gave me the feeling that I, now a middle-age man myself, was with them watching Lux making out with faceless boys and men on the rooftop making me equally guilty.

For me, this is a sample of a novel that seems to be a simple story but very rich in terms of interpretation. It just made me think of my role as a father to my teenage daughter. How I should deal with her especially during those times when we misunderstand each other, she locks herself in her room and cry. Fatherhood is trial and error and they say that one has to only follow his heart and everything will turn out right in the end. I wish it is that simple. Not that our family has the suicidal gene running in our blood but I just have to more sensitive and not bury myself in my office work and books and hope that times like that will go away once she's 20 and no longer an adolescent.

Now I have enough motivation to read Eugenides’ Pulitzer-winning novel Middlesex. One hell of a writer.
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Profile Image for Fabian.
935 reviews1,527 followers
January 18, 2020
Wow, you knew that this guy was the real deal after all.

I see this as a perfect segue to his masterpiece "Middlesex". It's simple, it's sad, it is capital I Intriguing. The first novel always announces the author's intentions for those that come next, and Eugenides loves the themes of adolescence in all its tragic shortcomings. The Lisbon girls are monoliths to the nameless suitors who do nothing else but speculate about them and become passionate voyeurs. They do nothing to save them; they only observe and obsess. I guess while girls become emblematic of sexual repression, the foolish boys become symbols of generic apathy and cowardice. It's a symbol of the times; a portrait of true suburban un-happiness.
Profile Image for F.
294 reviews249 followers
July 22, 2018
So disappointed with this book.

Couldnt get my head round the characters
Profile Image for Elle (ellexamines).
1,079 reviews17.2k followers
May 28, 2019
I struggled with this book. On several levels.

On one hand, The Virgin Suicides is an introspective exploration of some of the problems of 1950s suburbia, and of our society’s tendency to look at suicide and the trauma of young girls as something dangerous, rather than real.

This narrative is told through the point of view of the boys around the girls. It purposefully fetishizes the pain and trauma of the five, attempting to critique this same fetishization. We barely know the tragedy of Cecilia, but she herself is almost erased by the male narrators, who make her death into a case they can solve via the exhibits. They treat her death as true crime, not a true tragedy, and thus fail to solve any mystery at all. They must learn to see the girls as actual human beings.

This critique works, to some extent; it is the sisters themselves where the book falls apart. The five suicidal virgin sisters are, despite incidental moments of characterization, a monolith; they are used as representations of some deeper societal problem, rather than people. They are at once sexualized and devoid of sexuality; their deaths are fetishized to such a degree by the lead group of boys that they cease to exist at all.

In other words, the five sisters are at once given agency, and then have their agency taken away by a narrative that refuses them any room to tell their own stories. I believe the authorial intent here may have been the former; the result, to me, is the latter.

I also struggle with the weird fascination with destruction of gender roles in the home brought on by a close text reading of this; the girl’s father, Mr. Lisbon is more feminine, with a “girlish voice” (6); his daughters “forgot he was a male and discussed their menstruation openly in front of him” (21). This is not an uncommon problem in media; I actually read this for a class on concepts of adolescence in which we also watched Rebel Without a Cause, and yep, the father in that is overly feminine, too. I still dislike it, as well as the narrative’s focus on Mrs. Lisbon as the source of the girl’s trauma.

Eugenides’ writing is gorgeous in places, but feels so cold and removed towards its characters that I found myself put off.

There is some good here; a discussion on the ways teachers attempt to deal with the suicide is well-done, and a scene in which the Reverend equates suicide with not winning title game (101) is both hilarious and deeply sad. Adults try to put Celia’s suicide on her crooked nature, not on her actual life; this precludes the suicides of the other three. The imagery around the decay of the house is compelling. I also want to acknowledge that this was a good deal more revolutionary when it was written in 1993. This book is not terrible and I’m glad I’ve read it for myself; it’s just that when it comes down to the wire, I gained very little from this reading experiences.

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Profile Image for Sara Cantador.
Author 2 books4,282 followers
January 21, 2016
Tenía ganas de dejar un poco de lado la literatura juvenil, así que decidí coger esta novela que llevaba un tiempo llamándome desde mis estanterías. Qué sorpresa que se haya convertido en uno de los mejores libros que he leído, pero pocos tienen la magia de la que bien puede alardear esta novela.
Si tuviera que describir Las vírgenes suicidas con una palabra, ésa sería sin duda "intensa". No sé si fue cosa de la narración, o la necesidad de conocer qué desencadenó la secuencia de suicidios de las hermanas Lisbon, y que además, a pesar de conocer el desenlace de antemano, lograra mantenerme en vilo en todo momento. Viviendo las vidas de este grupo de hermanas a través de diferentes pares de ojos, que terminan formando un caleidoscopio de las mismas. Un caleidoscopio además, gracias al cual acabé pensando que Bonnie, Therese, Mary, Lux y Cecilia eran reales, que las conocía de verdad y al mismo tiempo apenas sabía nada de ellas en absoluto. Como si sólo se narrara lo equivalente a la punta del iceberg, con un fondo tan profundo que se requerirían páginas y páginas para conocerlas realmente. Y es que así somos todos en realidad, ¿no?
Me ha parecido desgarradora la forma de tratar el tema del control y la opresión familiares. De cómo los padres de estas jóvenes, que con toda la buena intención quieren llevarlas por "el buen camino", terminan vetando su felicidad y desarrollo como personas.
Sin duda, es una obra maravillosa, profunda y muy cuidada, que si bien puede resultar algo confusa al principio (es difícil distinguir la línea que separa el pasado con los pensamientos del narrador, o incluso lo que se desarrolla en el presente), termina creando una atmósfera única y absorbente. Se consigue una transición desde esa confusión inicial, hasta una novela compleja y con un entramado mágico, que me atrapó por completo y me dejó sin palabras.
Totalmente recomendado.
Profile Image for Charlotte May.
673 reviews1,028 followers
June 13, 2019
3.5 ⭐️

This book has sat on my TBR list for YEARS! I finally ordered it from the library and gave it a go.
It was ok. Rather odd at times, and not the most riveting of reads, but ok nonetheless.

Set around the 1980s (I think?) the story focuses on the 5 Lisbon sisters, Lux, Mary, Cecilia, Bonnie and Therese. The sisters live in a claustrophobic household, full of strict rules laid down by their mother. Within the space of 2 years all 5 girls are dead - by suicide.

Told from the perspective of 4 teenage boys who become infatuated with the girls, they follow their lives, and take them on the only date the girls will ever go on.

I don't really have a lot to say about this book, it was very sad, we never really find out the reasons for their suicides, and the entire tale kind of left a bad taste in my mouth. But I'm glad to say I've read this, at least it can be crossed off of Mount TBR.
Profile Image for Maxwell.
1,089 reviews7,950 followers
February 2, 2018
I couldn't put this book down. It's not very long, and I'd been meaning to read it for years after hearing some great things about it. So I managed to get through it in a couple flights I took this week. It's utterly captivating; Eugenides's use of the choral narrative voice was unlike anything I've read before and the descriptions and dreamy and compelling. It has its moments of melodrama but those are balanced by the utterly mundane aspects of these characters' lives too. I feel like I need to read it again to pick up on so many elements I may have overlooked or not fully appreciated the first time around. I can definitely see myself reading this one again and am glad to have finally gotten around to it.
Profile Image for nicole.
538 reviews89 followers
July 1, 2007
So much better the second time around (and I loved it the first, so...)

Gorgeous, creepy. A suburban mythology. At first, I couldn't shake images from the film, which I thought might detract from really appreciating it as a novel, but in the end it didn't. I think that's because I realized Sofia Coppola had done a remarkable job adapting the text. I mean, holy shit, it's pretty much perfect. Such a moody novel with sparse dialogue, but what is there, is so right on (and often funny)... GUSHHHH.

Something that I very much loved about the book (and that lacks from the film), are the moments when the boys realize not only that the Lisbon girls are unique entities, but that they're not perfect. One's even described as "horsey". I love that. I love it when people fall in love with real people. People with big foreheads, or big noses. People with crowded smiles.

I love the narrator. Worringly obsessed (especially considering the time that's passed) though he may be, it really feels like someone is telling you something true. It's the kind of story you would tell for decades had you lived to see it, and I like to think it actually happened in a town not far from where I grew up, years before I was born, a story I'd hear from locals, never quite sure how much of it was true, and how much had become local legend.
Profile Image for Abyssdancer.
122 reviews13 followers
February 22, 2022
This story follows the five Lisbon sisters over one year in the 1970s, from the point of view of a group of neighborhood boys obsessed (not in the clinical way) with their lives, and eventually, with their deaths …

On June 16, one of the sisters, Cecelia, is found in the bathtub with her wrists slit … she is found in time, and after two weeks she is released from the hospital … only to try again, and this time succeed …

This all occurs in the first chapter …

The boys then tell the story of the surviving sisters, as their parents restrict the activities and lives of the sisters more and more as the year goes on … with grievous consequences …

My god, this book is so intense … at first, the almost clinical universal point of view of the boys seems too sterile and cold … but as the story progresses the seeming impartiality helps ease the reader through the tragic lives of the Lisbon sisters … the sterility instead becomes numbness, as the boys record the ethereal beauty of their lives … and the inherent danger obvious to the boys but not the Lisbon parents …

What is most amazing about this book is the patience that measures the unfolding of the stories of the sisters, how every detail of the neighborhood is revealed so carefully … yet all of these details so seamlessly thread together, such sophistication for a debut novel … the foreshadowing of the fates of the Lisbon sisters gently prepare the readers for the grief and sorrow …

Words cannot express how deep the sorrow is threaded throughout the Lisbon tapestry … even now, I am heavy with grief, as if I watched them die just this morning … the end of chapter 4 is perhaps some of the most haunting prose I have ever read … and like the boys, I will forever be haunted …
Profile Image for Steven Godin.
2,284 reviews2,153 followers
January 4, 2019
Influenced by a chance conversation with a babysitter, who told him how as teenagers she and her sisters all attempted to take their own lives, Eugenides has fashioned an eccentric, often amusing, and dreamy American fantasy, set within the leafy suburb of Grosse Pointe, Michigan, a place where he spent his own years growing up.

Having ignored other reviews, and going into this knowing absolutely nothing, my concerns this was going to be a rather dark affair were quickly brushed aside, as it's a time where some of us get the January blues the last thing I wanted was to be wallowing in the pits of despair reading a novel about suicide. Thankfully, Eugenides doesn't focus so much on suicide, but more along the lines of unrequited love, whilst also having an assured heartfelt nostalgia pumping through his veins.

Like suburban archaeologists, the narrators (a group of middle-aged men) piece together memories from twenty years previous, and their fixation with five sisters. And it's like mentally ploughing through a rubbish tip of evidence - diaries, snapshots, dried-out cosmetics, sanitary towels, soap dishes. brassieres. Anything to help better understand the sisters, of whom they didn't really properly know. Searching for some sort of explanation as to 'why' what happened, happened. They interview former neighbours, friends, teachers, dazed and divorced parents coasting through life, they collate gossip, but, still the answers to questions remain an enigma. All this is described in a tone that is both elegiac and comic.

The five sisters - Therese, Mary, Bonnie, Lux, and Cecilia remain a mystery throughout, one thing we do know is that they live sheltered lives under the thumb of their tyrannical, disturbed mother, and the sympathetic but docile father, who is a maths teacher. In an ordinary suburban world of lawnmowers and barbecues, the girls somehow represent the extraordinary, as well as the odd, the inexplicable, and the romantically extreme. There were pondering thoughts of - why the girls don't rebel?. Why don't they reach out to friends, or run away from home? Why don't the authorities insist that they go to school? What has driven their mother to impose such a strict regime in the first place? Such obvious thoughts are never addressed by Eugenides, and his willful ignoring of these issues can grate on the reader's nerves, momentarily breaking the spell of his tale.
Although his powers of observation are startling and acute, in small pockets, I found the narrative, and I hate to say this, a bit of a chore.

As debut novels go, Eugenides does write with a swaggering confidence, not like a literary virgin, making this seem like it was his tenth novel and not his first. The Virgin Suicides cleverly fakes being a book about teen suicide, as its real exploration is into the delicate dynamics that keep a family together.

One striking aspect of the novel that didn't occur until later is that it relies entirely on the male gaze. Unfortunately for me, the narrators appear in an overly romantic deluded way. Not soppy or cheezy, just a little too exaggerated and goofy. One thing I can't fault is its creatively original nature. But I would still be surprised if it lingers around in my thoughts for more than a day.
Profile Image for Josu Diamond.
Author 7 books32.6k followers
March 21, 2015
La verdad es que me he pensado darle esta nota. En lo que llevo de año las novelas que han tenido la puntuación máxima han sido más bien pocas, y es en parte porque me quise exigir un poco más y ser más duro con mis reseñas. Pero Las vírgenes suicidas lo ha conseguido. Podría decir que me la he leído en un día, pues desde la página 41 a la 230 han sido apenas unas pocas horas de viaje. Pero han parecido meses. Y esa es la magia de la novela. La narración es espectacular, con un estilo bastante peculiar que te sumerge por completo en la historia pese a que la historia se cuenta de manera difusa. No nos encontramos con un caso de misterio sobre por qué estas jóvenes se suicidan, que es lo que yo esperaba encontrar (y que por la sinopsis, parece ser el tema del libro), sino más bien con algo más intimista. Es una novela que estudia muchas cosas: las apariencias, los falsos juicios basados en suposiciones, la familia, la opresión... Es más que curioso darte cuenta de cómo realmente no llegas a conocer a las hermanas Lisbon pero crees conocerlas, algo con lo que Eugenides juega muy bien. Lo que más puedo elogiar es la narración, porque como digo, aunque no cuenta realmente nada de un modo objetivo o adorne un par de acciones con historias de otros personajes completamente secundarios, te mantiene en vilo, tragándote sus palabras. Me gusta que un autor tenga esa magia. Y en este caso, es magia de verdad, sin trucos. Pura.
Profile Image for Melissa ♥ Dog/Wolf Lover ♥ Martin.
3,372 reviews9,446 followers
April 14, 2022
That was sad. I felt sorry for the girls and the horrible prison like home life.

Mel 🖤🐶🐺🐾

****An old little day (2021) of not feeling well. I’ll just leave it.****

Watched the movie. Loved it. Thought it was sad. I haven’t read this book yet but I will. I’m writing this because GR doesn’t give you enough room to write anything in the general section

I’m tired of most everything. I had a medical procedure last week and this morning. I’m tired and my suicidal thoughts are very present. And my freaking doctors office didn’t put my DNR in correctly so the hospital didn’t have it. Another crap thing I’ll have to drag up there.

I’m not happy on GR. I even made a private group for some friends that are close or have issues like me but we aren’t doing much so I don’t know. I don’t know the point of anything.

I tried once to clean out my friends list on here because no one needs 5000 friends and now I’m back up to 4000+. I want to come on here and connect with the people I’m closest to. I have over 3000 friend requests. I want to be nice and talk to people but that’s not what everyone is on here for. PLEASE, drop me as a friend if you’re just on here as a friend collector or you just want more people to like your reviews. I can tell you now, having that many people is not going to get you that many likes. Here’s you some pointers for 90% of the top dogs: Get you a hot chic profile pic, be super cool so that people love you, like other peoples stuff and comment on it even if you don’t care (one person told me my review was fantastic - I gave a star review - really. Book bump the hell out of your reviews. That’s where all the big dogs got so high up the pole peeps. Oh, and then go and get on YouTube. People think you’re some kind of star then but they will turn around and cancel you so look out. Anyway, that’s all I’ve got on that topic.

I have some AMAZING friends on here! I want to see them more and interact with them more. I don’t even go to my homepage because I don’t know half the people. I want to be more present in my groups with said people. Not to the point of stress.

I want GR to be fun again (some friends left because it’s not, it’s just a popularity place now) I want to get my books under control to do more buddy reading. Leave the groups I don’t participate in and some I’ve participated in a little bit because I don’t care any more. I’m in pain mentally and physically. I’m tired of worrying about stupid crap when real life is going on! A few people I know have great ole lives and have no health or money problems and some of us do, that doesn’t make us any less.

Once again, if you’re my friend as a friend collector or review likes, drop me now so I don’t have to go clean as many people out of my friends list. AND, so I can ask people to be friends that I’m having more contact with than people who are friends. Ain’t that some shit! The friends I’ve had on here for years, you know I’m not talking about you! Let’s talk even more. Of course, I don’t want to be on GR that much any more so that made sense
Profile Image for Ahmad Sharabiani.
9,568 reviews55.6k followers
November 8, 2020
The Virgin Suicides, Jeffrey Eugenides

As an ambulance arrives for the body of Mary Lisbon, a group of anonymous neighborhood boys recall the events leading up to her death. The Lisbon's are a Catholic family, living in the suburb of Grosse Pointe, Michigan during the 1970's.

The father, Ronald, is a math teacher at the local high school. The mother is a homemaker. The family has five daughters: 13-year-old Cecilia, 14-year-old Lux, 15-year-old Bonnie, 16-year-old Mary, and 17-year-old Therese.

Without warning, Cecilia attempts suicide by slitting her wrists in the bathtub. She is found in time and survives. A few weeks later, their parents allow the girls to throw a chaperoned party at their house in hopes of cheering Cecilia up. However, Cecilia excuses herself from the party, goes upstairs, and jumps out of her bedroom window.

She is impaled on the fence post below, and she dies almost immediately. The Lisbon parents begin to watch their four remaining daughters more closely, which isolates the family from their community. Cecilia's death also heightens the air of mystery about the Lisbon sisters to the neighborhood boys, who long for more insight into the girls' lives. ...

تاریخ نخستین خواش: روز هفدهم ماه اکتبر سال 2016میلادی

عنوان: خودکشی باکره؛ نویسنده: جفری اوگنیدس؛ مترجم: محمد رحیمی؛ تهران انتشارات میلکان‏‫، 1394؛ در 200ص؛ شابک 9786007845516؛ موضوع داستانهای نویسندگان ایالات متحده آمریکا - سده 20م

گروهی از پسرانی که با یکدیگر دوست هستند، به چند خواهر مرموز که در خانوادهٔ ی خشک و مذهبیشان به شدت تحت مراقب هستند، علاقمند می‌شوند؛ در تابستان جوان‌ترین خواهر «سیسیلیا»، در حمام اقدام به خودکشی، و بریدن رگ مچ دستش می‌کند؛ سپس والدینش برای اینکه حال او بهتر شود، او را به یک پارتی از پیش تعیین شده، سوق می‌دهند، «سیسیلیا» برای دومین بار، با پریدن از پنجره ی اتاق خواب طبقه دوم، و برخورد به میله‌ های حصار آهنی، جان خود را از دست می‌دهد؛ و ...؛

تاریخ بهنگام رسانی 17/08/1399هجری خورشیدی؛ ا. شربیانی
Profile Image for Magi.
7 reviews3 followers
October 6, 2020
Never reading a book written by a man ever again
Profile Image for leah.
257 reviews1,778 followers
October 10, 2021

hauntingly written and eerily atmospheric, tinted with 1970s hues of american suburbia, ‘the virgin suicides’ is narrated by a greek chorus of unnamed men, looking back on their teenage years and the suicides of the 5 beautiful lisbon sisters who lived in their neighbourhood.

as they scavenge through the past and attempt to make sense of it, it becomes clear that the men are still stuck in their adolescence, their growth somewhat stunted as they remain the teenage boys they used to be, still hopelessly trying to solve the mystery of the girls’ deaths. as boys, they’re obsessed with the world of teenage girls - a world both terrifying and alluring to them all at once. they’re convinced they’re in love with the sisters, they relentlessly yearn to know more about them, to talk to them, to reach out and touch them with trembling fingertips, but the closer they get, the more out of reach the girls become. right until the end.

the exploration of the male gaze is undoubtedly one of the most striking parts of this book, which manifests itself literally as we read through the eyes of the boys as they fetishise and objectify the girls, peeking at them through windows and around corners at school. despite their claims of ‘love’, the boys don’t see the girls as individual people, but instead as a sum of their parts which inextricably become mixed together - petite, blonde hair, fair skin, round cheeks: a fantasy of perfect teenage femininity. the girls are merely bodies to which the boys (now men) can project their romantic and sexual fantasies onto - even, tragically, in their death.

another strong theme in the book is the focus on adolescent despair, particularly for a teenage girl - summed up perfectly by the youngest sister, cecelia, who a few weeks before her death, states “clearly, doctor, you have never been a 13 year old girl”. the lisbon sisters are caught in the limbo between youth and womanhood, slowly buckling under the pressure, anger, and confusion. it’s angsty, of course, but also realistic.
Profile Image for Always Pouting.
568 reviews678 followers
December 21, 2022
I did like the writing and narrative style of the book but I didn't love it as much as I had thought I would. The premise of the book seemed promising (I love depressing books) but it didn't resonate with me. It felt strange watching an experience similar to your own through the perspective of someone who is witnessing what's happening, especially when it's told in a way romanticizing something that's quite ugly in reality. Also the explanations they come up with the end seemed ridiculous, they didn't even consider the most obvious one: .
Profile Image for Dave Schaafsma.
Author 6 books31.2k followers
April 17, 2020
4/15/20: Read this with my spring 2020 Growing Up class. Maybe a regrettable topic in this time of severe mental health challenges within the isolation and other madnesses of Covid 2020.

Original review: As I approach the El every day the first thing that greets me is the suicide hotline posters. They’re everywhere as the suicide rates go up. I grew up in the sixties and in the seventies I worked a suicide hotline, I worked in a psych hospital where I recall as vividly as five minutes ago several suicide attempts, and some completions. Family members, too. You never quite get over it, all the emotions, rage, sorrow, the mystification.

I had three sisters, and I lived in this girl-centric home, slumber parties, make-up, frizzy combs, lotions, girl books and whispers, and I never even dated until my senior year in high school. Girls were a mystery to me and I was stymied about how to approach them, I on Mars, they on Venus.

I first read Jeffery Eugenides’ The Virgin Suicides in 1993 when it came out; this time I read it with some students in a kind of small seminar on Growing Up novels. I thought then and think now that it is one of the great novels. It features a narrator with a first person plural pronoun, a group of boys obsessed with a group of five sisters, in Grosse Point, north of Detroit, in the mid sixties; its ending is given away in the first sentence. Or in the title, actually, so the question is not so much what happened but why, and the answers the boys, now men, come up with are not definitive.

This is the story unnamed boys—and later, men—tell of Cecilia, Lux, Bonnie, Mary and Therese: “all lace and ruffle, bursting with their fructifying flesh” (but this is from the boys’ perspective, that male gaze, remember; how the girls see themselves remains a mystery to the boys). For the boys these girls seem the sum of the catalogue they compile of their artifacts: “a room full of crumpled panties, of stuffed animals hugged to death, a crucifix draped with a brassier, of gauzy chambers of canopied beds, and of the effluvia of so many girls becoming women together in the same cramped space.”

The tone here is sometimes black comedy, boys obsessed about girls, haha, but who cares, we know that, yet the story heads deeper into a consideration of what we can actually know about anyone else. In this case, a group of boys are curious about the natures of five girls who are cooped up in a house primarily by their mother. Why are they what they seem to be? Can they know them? The short answer is no. This question of why is also relevant in this book to those who commit suicide. Why? And we��ll never know for sure. Well, you get to decide, but Eugenides will not make it easy for you. In the process of their investigation, the boys/men gather evidence into various “exhibits” to try and determine who these girls really are,

“. . . drifting in slow motion past us, while we pretended we hadn’t been looking at them at all, that we didn’t know they existed.”

In the process one boy not in the geeky narrator group, a kind of James Dean sex god, Trip Fontaine, a boy that many girls seem to obsess about, actually asks Lux out and successfully navigates a(n ultimately disastrous) prom date, after which things get progressively worse, more repressive. So there is a touch of sex and unrequited love and all the emotions pertaining to that, in gothic teen fashion, all Wuthering Heights-ish driven mad by desire, that’s in here. But it is not clichéd, and the narrators are not grossly (at least primarily) sex-obsessed about the girls: “. . . we thought if we kept looking hard enough we might begin to understand what they were feeling and who they were.”

Throughout the book, various people pose explanations, theories for why the girls do what they do:

“Capitalism has resulted in material well-being but spiritual bankruptcy.”

“The seeds of death get lost in the mess that God made us.”

“Added to their loveliness was a new mysterious suffering, perfectly silent, visible in the blue puffiness beneath their eyes or the way they would sometimes stop in mid-stride, look down, and shake their heads as though disagreeing with life.”

“What lingered after them was not life, which always overcomes natural death, but the most trivial list of mundane facts: a clock ticking on a wall, a room dim at noon, and the outrageousness of a human being thinking only of herself.”

“We realized that the version of the world they rendered for us was not the world they really believed in. . .”

“She wanted out of that decorating scheme.”

“With most people suicide is like Russian roulette. Only one chamber has a bullet. With the Lisbon girls, the gun was loaded. A bullet for family abuse. A bullet for genetic predisposition. A bullet for historical malaise. A bullet for inevitable momentum. The two other bullets are impossible to name, but that doesn't mean the chambers were empty.”

“The repression of sexual urges” {and I have to say I recalled at this point the news—as I recall it—that in the seventies the greatest concentration of stds occurred in ones of the places with the most churches, Zeeland, MI close to where I grew up. We—that collective male we--thought of that as sadly hilarious.]

“. . . the destruction of Lux’s rock records. . .”

“. . the bland uniformity of that place. . .”

“Basically what we have here is a dreamer. Somebody out of touch with reality. When she jumped, she probably thought she'd fly.”

“Don't waste your time on life.”

Maybe the why has to do with a loosely gothic frame for the story; in the inevitably tragic demise of the family (this is never hidden from us, so can’t constitute a spoiler to reveal), the madness of adolescence is central; as with Jane Eyre, there are “madwomen” upstairs, and as in Poe’s “The Fall of the House of Usher,” the very house they live in begins to collapse in ruin and decay. Dutch Elm Disease, fish flies, the rich smells of decay are everywhere even as the girls are largely confined indoors. The girls seem from the beginning like ghosts.

But in the end, in this investigation, this inquiry, mystery alone remains; the girls, as girls, as humans, are unknowable to the boys:

“In the end we had the pieces of the puzzle, but no matter how we put them together, gaps remained, oddly shaped emptinesses mapped by what surrounded them, like countries we couldn't name.”

The boys seem wisest when they just stand amazed or bewildered or not knowing, as in speaking of:

“. . . her inexplicable heart.”

“All wisdom ends in paradox.”

“I don’t know what you’re feeling. I won’t even pretend.”

“It didn't matter in the end how old they had been, or that they were girls, but only that we had loved them, and that they hadn't heard us calling, still do not hear us, up here in the tree house, with our thinning hair and soft bellies, calling them out of those rooms where they went to be alone for all time, alone in suicide, which is deeper than death, and where we will never find the pieces to put them back together.”

In the end, The Virgin Suicides is about our ultimate unknowability from each other, boys from girls, girls from boys, humans from humans, who we are, why we do what we do, as hard as we try. And it was an exhilarating trip down sixties memory lane for me. With some wonderful writing.

Some relevant films/books: Penelope Spheeris’ Suburbia (suburbs, punk), Revolutionary Road (sixties), The Ice Storm (sixties), Ordinary People (suburbs, suicide), Todd Solonz’s Happiness (suburbs, sex), any John Waters film (youth and pop culture), American Beauty (sex and despair), Stepford Wives (suburban conformity), Peyton Place (suburban sexual intrigue), Larry Clark’s Kids (brutal teen realism), The Sweet Hereafter (teen tragedy and social trauma), Ghost World (teen urban girls); Heathers (teen girls, suicide); 13 Reasons Why (suicide), Goethe’s The Sorrows of Young Werther (suicide), Jane Eyre, Wuthering Heights (gothic), Poe’s “The Fall of the House of Usher,” (gothic) and on and on.
Profile Image for Joe Valdez.
470 reviews767 followers
August 15, 2018
The Virgin Suicides is the first novel from Jeffrey Eugenides, who'd win a Pulitzer Prize for his follow-up Middlesex. Published in 1993, his debut is a literary narcotic that may thrill or disinterest readers based on their level of dependency to words. I found it to be a mindless drug that took me into a world where electrifying imagination and intoxicating prose mingle with some of the most obnoxious and far-fetched melodrama I've encountered in a book. In a fictional world where anything can happen, nothing there makes any real difference, making it difficult for me to care about the book even while it was often thrilling me.

Set in the 1970s in a suburb of Detroit, the novel is the first person account of an unnamed narrator who seems to have been a teenage boy once, and who like many of his friends, is obsessed with the secrets of the enigmatic Lisbon girls, five aloof sisters who we're told very early on, in case the title didn't spoil it, take their own lives. Cecilia (13), Lux (14), Bonnie (15), Mary (16) and Therese (17) are revealed from afar, either through windows or in corners at school, or from accounts those close to them reveal to the narrator over the years. It all starts when Cecilia opens her wrist in the bathtub and is rushed to the hospital.

Paramedics find Cecilia clutching a laminated photo of the Virgin Mary. While her mother, an antisocial Protestant, and her father, an enthusiastic high school math teacher, offer no clues, the popular theory to Cecilia's suicide attempt blames a teenager named Dominic Palazzolo, a Catholic who lovesick over an unrequited love and pissed off at the Holy Mother, leaps off a roof in an act of desperation. Cecilia witnesses this, along with the narrator and his friends, who are incredulous when upon Cecilia's return, they receive party invitations from the Lisbon girls. Only one of their peers, a boy named Peter Sissen, has seen the inside of the home before.

Then the night arrived. In blue blazers, with khaki trousers and clip-on neckties, we walked along the sidewalk in front of the Lisbon house as we had so many times before, but this time we turned up the walk, and climbed the front steps between the pots of red geraniums, and rang the doorbell. Peter Sissen acted as our leader, and even looked slightly bored, saying again and again, "Wait'll you see this." The door opened. Above us, the face of Mrs. Lisbon took form in the dimness. She told us to come in, we bumped against each other getting through the doorway, and as soon as we set foot on the hooked rug in the foyer we saw that Peter Sissen's descriptions of the house had been all wrong. Instead of a heady atmosphere of feminine chaos, we found the house to be a tidy, dry-looking place that smelled faintly of stale popcorn. A piece of needle-point saying "Bless This Home" was framed over the arch, and to the right, on a shelf above the radiator, five pairs of bronzed baby shoes preserved for all time the unstimulating stage of the Lisbon girls' infancy. The dining room was full of stark colonial furniture. One wall had a painting of Pilgrims plucking a turkey. The living room revealed orange carpeting and a brown vinyl sofa. Mr. Lisbon's La-Z-Boy flanked a small table on which sat the partially completed model of a sailing ship, without rigging and with the busty mermaid on the prow painted over.

Cecilia remains withdrawn during the basement party and asking her mother to be dismissed, goes upstairs, where she throws herself from her window and onto the iron spikes of the fence below. She leaves no note and her diary, which ends up in the hands of the narrator, offers no clues as to why she'd kill herself. Cecilia has a funeral, but due to a funeral workers' strike, her body is kept chilled at the mortuary. The obsession the narrator and his friends share for the surviving Lisbon girls only intensifies. Mr Lisbon exhibits strange behavior, talking to the spider plants at school and refusing to open up to the priest or his fellow teachers.

Their hope in cracking the mysteries of the Lisbon girls comes in Trip Fontaine, an unlikely Lothario lusted after by girls who eagerly come over to help him cram for exams and their mothers, who shamelessly offer Trip baked goods. While Trip keeps intimate details of his sexual triumphs confidential, or possibly forgets them in a haze of marijuana, he is smitten when he stumbles into the wrong history class and encounters Lux Lisbon. Determined to ask her out, Trip walks into Mr. Lisbon's class and asks her father for permission to take Lux to Homecoming, offering to have three of his friends accompany the remaining Lisbon girls to the dance as well.

Trip utilizes diplomacy to select his three wing-men and the quadruple date goes off much better than expected for all involved, until Lux disappears with Trip and stays out two and a half hours past her 11 o'clock curfew. Mrs. Lisbon initiates a crackdown that results in all four schools being pulled from school, in order to "grieve" for their sister in peace. Lux is observed by the narrator copulating with boys on her roof. She fakes a burst appendix to be rushed to the hospital, where Lux asks the doctor for a pregnancy test. One medical opinion holds the Lisbon girls are acting out grief over their dead sister by mimicking her tragic behavior.

As it circulated in the next few months, this theory convinced many people because it simplified things. Already Cecilia's suicide had assumed in retrospect the stature of a long-prophesied event. Nobody thought it shocking anymore, and accepting it as First Cause removed any need for further explanation. As Mr. Hutch put it, "They made Cecilia out to be the bad guy." Her suicide, from his perspective, was seen as a kind of disease infecting those close at hand. In the bathtub, cooking in the broth of her own blood, Cecilia had released an airborne virus which the other girls, even in coming to save her, had contracted. No one cared how Cecilia had caught the virus in the first place. Transmission became explanation. The other girls, safe in their own rooms, had smelled something strange, sniffed the air, but ignored it. Black tendrils of smoke had crept under their doors, rising up behind their studious backs to form the evil shapes smoke or shadow take on in cartoons: a black-hatted assassin brandishing a dagger; an anvil about to drop. Contagious suicide made it palpable. Spiky bacteria lodged in the agar of the girls' throats. In the morning, a soft oral thrush had sprouted over their tonsils. The girls felt sluggish. At the window the world's light seemed dimmed. They rubbed their eyes to no avail. They felt heavy, slow-witted. Household objects lost meaning. A bedside clock became a hunk of molded plastic, telling something called time, in a world marking its passage for some reason. When we thought of the girls along these lines, it was feverish creatures, exhaling soupy breath, succumbing day by day in their isolated ward. We went outside with our hair wet in the hopes of catching flu ourselves so that we might share their delirium.

"Delirium" is a good way to describe The Virgin Suicides. It takes place in an American suburb that resembles a real one, the way impressively but hastily constructed facades on a film location resemble a wild west town if you aren't really paying close attention. In this world, a teenage narrator with no name and seemingly no life of his own fills hour upon hour spying on the Lisbons, who seem to oblige by walking in front of windows a lot. Lux obliges him and others by having sex on top of her roof. Eugenides records it all in dizzying prose that is amazingly detailed, often acidic and sometimes baffling.

In fact, despite her convulsions (she was clutching her stomach), Lux had dared to put on a coat of the forbidden pink lipstick that tasted--so the boys on the roof told us--like strawberries. Woody Clabault's sister had the same brand, and once, after we got into his parents' liquor cabinet, we made him put on the lipstick and kiss each one of us that we, too, would know what it tasted like. Beyond the flavor of the drinks we improvised that night--part ginger ale, part bourbon, part lime juice, part scotch--we could taste the strawberry wax on Woody Clabault's lips, transforming them, before the artificial fireplace, into Lux's own. Rock music blared from the tape player; we threw ourselves about in chairs, bodilessly floating to the couch from time to time to dip our heads into the strawberry vat, but the next day we refused to remember that any of this had happened, and even now it's the first time we've spoken of it. At any rate, the memory of that night was superseded by that of Lux's being hoisted into the EMS truck, because, despite discrepancies of times and space, it was Lux's lips we tasted, not Clabault's.

What? Teenagers don't behave like this, share information like this or surround themselves with nearly as much drama as this, with not only one suicide, but five in one house. Eugenides is on solid ground with Trip Fontaine, a terrific character who electrifies the book. (This was also the case with the 1999 film adaptation, the feature directing debut of Sofia Coppola that featured Josh Hartnett as Trip). Trip's engineering of a quadruple date with four sisters who've lost a sibling could've been the heart of a coherent novel, a subtle one, with his character narrating a story that hued closer to reality. This one is a wild kingdom that while impressive, needed more work in the editing stage than it got.
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