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THE VIRGIN SUICIDES by Jeffrey Eugenides

THE VIRGIN SUICIDES

By Jeffrey Eugenides

Pub Date: April 1st, 1993
ISBN: 0-374-28438-5
Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

 Debut novelist Eugenides is a heavyweight: proof of it is in nearly every pitch-perfect sentence of this startlingly and very good book. A group of teenage boys in a Detroit suburb have come under the siren spell of a group of like-aged sisters, the Lisbon girls, the eldest of whom, Cecilia, has killed herself by jumping out a bedroom window onto a fence. Shocked and dislocated by the fact of young, willful death, the boys are increasingly fascinated as the always strict and secretive Lisbon family goes into a kind of cold storage (the other girls eventually withdraw from school), and the house is let go into decrepitude (the boys, using binoculars from up in a treehouse, can see that the other girls have turned Cecilia's bedroom into a shrine). To rescue the Lisbon girls becomes the boys' instinctive obsession--and an accepted invitation to the prom almost accomplishes this. But one sister, Lux, has turned promiscuous--dooming her and her sisters' chances for freedom thereafter. Left to them all is death only. Eugenides, meanwhile, writes just about as well as anyone in recent memory has about male teenage desire, mythologizing, and half-rational thought: one unforgettable scene has the boys and the Lisbon girls communicating on the phone by playing certain popular songs close to the receiver for each other, third-party messages heartbreakingly personalized. The boys narrate the story together like a chorus, moving around in time, ever-haunted, in prose that is sinuous, untricky, yet polished. They come to recognize that the Lisbon girls mean life and death simultaneously--and that they will never get over having got to know this so young. Maybe the most eccentrically successful, genuinely lyrical first novel since William Wharton's Birdy. Not to be missed.