The Virgin Suicides is a tale about five sisters, all surnamed Lisbon, who all decided to die – Cecilia, thirteen, going first by plunging headlong from her bedroom window towards the jutting edges of the fence below, followed by Therese, seventeen, who overdosed with sleeping pills; Bonnie, fifteen, who hanged herself in the basement; Mary, sixteen, who stuck her head inside a heated oven; and finally Lux, fourteen, who locked herself inside her mother’s station wagon.
What strikes me most about this book is the of the narrator’s voice. First person, personal pronoun, plural – WE. To me, this is very original – the very first book I’ve read which uses WE as narrator, and one of the reasons why I like this book.
The unnamed narrator, who turns out to be a middle-aged man, talks about how he and his companions had spied upon the Lisbon household and recounted the few encounters they had with the family before and even after the suicides. He talks about how their entire neighborhood had witnessed the gradual deterioration of the Lisbons after the first suicide, and the manner the family had employed to cope with the grief and the loss. He recalls how they had observed the signs of decline but had seemed to miss their relevance until the girls killed themselves.
Then there are the questions. Why did Cecilia kill herself? Why did the other sisters decide to follow suit? Was the suicide a suicide pact? Were the sisters mentally deranged or simply different? The Virgin Suicides, for the entire 5 chapters, leaves more questions than answers. But for all the unanswered questions, the book attempts to explain a subject the cause of which, other people, including me, cannot fully comprehend. Which is true with suicide cases in real life. Who can ever know what goes inside the mind of the person contemplating suicide? All we have are only speculations and assumptions based on previous acts or from journals left, as in this story, from Exhibits left by the girls and interviews from witnesses, both the reluctant and the willing, the competence of whom in testifying has not truly been ascertained.
Jeffrey Eugenides has depicted a colorful portrait of a family who has to go through the shock and grief of the deaths of their seemingly normal but actually troubled daughters. I love his way with words, how he creates vivid and realistic illustrations of his characters and of the setting. Jeffrey Eugenides can write a perfectly crafted novel, and I envy him. He can make a seemingly sad issue (suicide) into a brilliant, intelligent, good quality, at times hilarious (the cameo roles of the two paramedics), composition, one that can make you periodically pause and look at the ceiling in between reads to think deeply for insights. I agree with some of the reviews. You’ll love this book not so much for its plot, but for its prose. Jeffrey Eugenides is one literary genius.
My copy: A movie edition paperback bought for Php45.00 from Booksale.
14/50 2011 Goodreads Reading Goal.