The Virgin Suicides by Jeffrey Eugenides

The Virgin Suicides by Jeffrey Eugenides

Reviewed by L.D.Y.

Trade, 249 pages, 1993

Rating: 7/10

Reason for Reading: Loved the movie version directed by Sophia Coppola.

Synopsis: A group of boys obsess over five sisters whose demise begins with the suicide of the youngest, Cecilia. Looking back as middle-aged men, they still struggle to piece together the lives of the girls in an effort to understand their tragic ends.

Opening paragraph:

On the morning the last Lisbon daughter took her turn at suicide – it was Mary this time, and sleeping pills, like Therese – the two paramedics arrived at the house knowing exactly where the knife drawer was, and the gas oven, and the beam in the basement from which it was possible to tie a rope. They got out of the EMS truck, as usual moving much too slowly in our opinion, and the fat one said under his breath, ‘This ain’t TV, folks, this is how fast we go.’ He was carrying the heavy respirator and cardiac unit past the bushes that had grown monstrous and over the erupting law, tame and immaculate thirteen months earlier when the trouble began.

Fabulous quotes:

‘Every second is eternal,’ Trip told us, describing how as he sat in his desk the girl in front of him, for no apparent reason, had turned around and looked at him. He couldn’t say she was beautiful because all he could see were her eyes. The rest of her face – the pulpy lips, the blond sideburn fuzz, the nose with its candy-pink translucent nostrils – registered dimly as the two blue eyes lifted him on a sea wave and held him suspended. ‘She was the still point of the turning world,’ he told us, quoting Eliot, whose Collected Poems he had found on the shelf of the detoxification center. For the eternity that Lux Lisbon looked at him, Trip Fontaine looked back, and the love he felt at that moment, truer than all subsequent loves because it never had to survive real life, still plagued him, even now in the desert, with his looks and health wasted.

Tom Faheen suggested flying a kite with a message alongside the house, but this was voted down on logistical grounds. Little Johnny Buell offered the recourse of tossing the same message on a rock through the girls’ windows, but we were afraid the breaking glass would alert Mrs. Lisbon. In the end, the answer was so simple it took a week to come up with.
We called them on the telephone.
In the Larsons’ sun-faded phone book, right between Licker and Little, we found the intact listing for Lisbon, Ronald A. It sat halfway down the right-hand page, unmarked by any code or symbol, not even an asterisk referring to an appendix of pain. We stared at it for some time. Then, three index fingers at once, we dialed.
The telephone tolled eleven times before Mr. Lisbon answered. ‘What’s it going to be today?’ he said right away in a tired voice. His speech was slurred. We covered the phone and said nothing.

Also recommended: The Romantic by Barbara Gowdy; Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood by Rebecca Wells.

Also by this author: Middlesex.

Author’s website:

© Lisa Yanaky 2003-2007

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