Stav’s Summer Book Blog: “The Virgin Suicides” surpasses all expectations

"The Virgin Suicides" by Jeffery Eugenides is a best selling novel published in 1993.

Stav Nachum, News Editor

In my attempts to find more good books to read, I found myself turning to an old recommendation that had been on my radar for years now. Since ninth grade, at least fifteen different friends have recommended that I read “The Virgin Suicides” by Jeffery Eugenides. The 1993 novel was definitely worth the read as I was entranced from the first page to the last. It left me eager to learn more and when I finally closed the back cover, left me satisfied with an incredible tale to keep with me forever.

In an introduction reminiscent of many renowned Dan Brown novels (of which I am a huge fan), Jeffery Eugenides begins his first novel with a startling and horrible event: a 13-year-old girl throwing herself out of a window and impaling herself on an iron fence that surrounds her childhood home. After this captivating start, the story only continues to go into an incredible plot that keeps readers engaged.

The novel tells the story of the Lisbons, a Catholic family living in Michigan in the 1970s, whose lives change dramatically when Cecillia attempted suicide by cutting her wrists and then a few weeks later does the horrific act of throwing herself out a window as described earlier. The novel focuses on the cause of Cecilia’s suicide and its after effects on her family and friends as they become the center of neighborhood gossip.

After this event shakes the community, Lux, Cecilia’s older sister, starts a romance with the local heartthrob and misses her curfew after spending time with him on the football field after a school event. When her mother finds out about her extracurricular activities with the males at her school, she pulls all the girls out of school, claiming that it would help the girls recover from Cecilia’s suicide. This attempt to shield her daughter from boys and the activities that Lux engaged in, however, didn’t do much as Lux continues to take part in similar activities with other men. After a pregnancy scare, however, the girls of the household simply do not leave their home and become an even more central piece of gossip to the younger boys of the neighborhood.

One by one, the girls of the Lisbon household succumb to suicide. In fact, three of the sisters kill themselves: Bonnie hangs herself, Therese overdoses on sleeping pills, and Lux dies of carbon monoxide poisoning. Mary attempts suicide by putting her head in the oven, but fails and continues to live for another month before successfully ending her life by taking sleeping pills. As after any tragedy, Mr. and Mrs. Lisbon leave the neighborhood after the suicide “free-for-all” and the story continues.

One of the reasons that the book is so refreshing is it’s choice of narration. Rather than give the point of view of Cecilia or her family, the mystique of the Lisbon girls is told from the point of view of the neighborhood boys, the narrators of the novel. In fact, after the parents leave and there is a garage sale on the Lisbon’s property, the narrators, now grown men, scavenge through the trash determined to understand a tragedy that has always defied explanation. For still, the question remains – why did all five of the Lisbon girls take their own lives?

The tale, while grim and incredibly sad, really keeps you engaged from the front cover to the back cover. I truly enjoyed reading it and wondering what would happen next. Finally succumbing to the recommendations that my friends had given me proved to be worthwhile as I now have a new book that I truly enjoyed reading this summer. Not only was it refreshing both in its plot and its point of view, but it was a unique story that many authors seem to avoid or not write as well today. “The Virgin Suicides” truly lived up to its expectations and surpassed any preconceptions I may have had regarding the novel.