Page flipper or flopper? Jeffery Eugenides’s, “The Virgin Suicides” 

Krysta Schwab, Staff Writer

The Virgin Suicides has become a beloved modern contemporary classic that leaves readers feeling nostalgic and ponderous. Credit: Jeffery Eugenides Instagram

“The Virgin Suicides” is about the doomed lives and eventual suicides of the five Lisbon sisters: Cecelia, Lux, Mary, Bonnie, and Therese. Each stunningly beautiful sister remains a mystery to all who are infatuated with them due to their strict Catholic upbringing. Their mother, Mary Lisbon, isolates the girls from all social activities and even normal day-to-day activities, such as riding in cars.  

The narration is first person plural, delivered by a group of men who were infatuated with the girls as adolescents. At first, we see that their infatuations with the Lisbon girls stems from their outward appearance, and they want to crack the mystery as to why they live such a drastically sheltered life. The boys analyze each infinitesimal thing they find out about each girl which only deepens their fascination. To them, the girls are deity-like, ethereal beings that have been dealt a poor hand in life. Through the boys’ obsessive need to know the girls on a deeper level, secrets about their truly agonizing life come to light. They piece together the buildup to the girls’ suicides. The narrative structure follows an atypical timeline, starting with the boys 20 years in the future. From the very start, we see that the infatuation and obsession with the Lisbon girls will never die, even while they are no longer living. The chapters alter from the past to the present, the past trying to get to know the girls, and the present trying to preserve their memory and piecing together the timeline and motives behind each sister’s suicide.  

One of the things I most enjoyed about this book is how it was narrated. Even while author Jeffery Eugenides is male, he proceeds to emulate the story through the perspective of the young boys who fantasized about the Lisbon sisters. Now, when I say fantasized, there is an obvious implication of romantic nature, but it is much deeper than that. It would be easy to assume that a story written by a man, narrated by a man, about five females would appease a writing style more catered to a male audience, but I found this not to be the case. The boys describe the Lisbon girls in ways that make readers want to know more about them, and not just because they are beautiful. We see the boys crave their every thought and feeling, their desire to know the secrets behind the locked doors of their physically encapsulating household.  

I adore “The Virgin Suicides” to pieces, and I really suggest it to anyone who is interested in something refreshing, whether it be content wise or in narration. It is such a beautifully written book, and its unique features bring me back to it every time I am searching for a read. My rating is 5/5 stars!