Merry Wanderer of the Night + TIME

The Virgin Suicides

Can I start a review with holy shit? Well, whatever your answer is, I'magonnadoit.

Holy shit. I didn't think it was possible, but Jeffrey Eugenides has once again succeeded in writing a book that grabbed me by my eyeballs and yanked me into the story. I read Middlesex over the summer and I loved it so much I've taken to calling it my favorite book. I'm not committing yet, just trying it on for size. Since I survived the beefy, wonderful Middlesex, I wasn't afraid at all to try his other book, The Virgin Suicides, even though I had already seen the movie and that usually ruins a book for me. The movie did not ruin the book for me. Just like Middlesex, the writing in the first few pages was enough to make me sit still and read the crap out of this book.

"...our eyes got used to the light and informed us of something we had never realized: the Lisbon girls were all different people. Instead of five replicas with the same blond hair and puffy cheeks we saw that they were distinct beings, their personalities beginning to transform their faces and reroute their expressions. We saw at once that Bonnie, who introduced herself now as Bonaventure, had the sallow complexion and sharp nose of a nun. Her eyes watered and she was a foot taller than any of her sisters, mostly because of the length of her neck which would one day hang from the end of a rope" (26).
Eugenides goes on from that point to describe each sister in a similar fashion, exuding innocence and creepiness the whole way through. Everything in this book is innocent and creepy, suburban and having sex on the roof of your parents house. (Can I insert a little squeal here? Thank you.) The story is written from the point of a view of a group of boys in the neighborhood who watched the Lisbon girls their whole lives, except now they are adults and the Lisbon girls have been dead for a long time. They retell the whole story and occasionally talk about specific evidence they have. Photographs, clothing, makeup. They call these Exhibit 1-97, and they insert them occasionally throughout the story until you reach the end where the girls commit suicide (I'm not giving away anything here, you know the whole book it's going to happen) and the boys bombard you with evidence for everything as they explain to you why the girls died.

The story moves slowly and Eugenides has perfected the art of creeping through the pages. Even though it's slow I kept turning the pages just to soak up more of his writing. This is also the first time I have ever read a story where I believed it was told from a group of people rather than just one person. He doesn't spend a lot of time defining characters, but he doesn't have to because the point of the story is that no one really knows anyone. He doesn't glamorize suicide. He says things anyone who has been exposed to suicide has thought. Once again, he is a masterful storyteller.

Most people seem to think Middlesex is amazing and The Virgin Suicides is pretty great. I'll put myself in that camp too. I honestly don't have any complaints about the book at all, but when compared to Middlesex I just didn't feel that there was as much to the story. Part of that is probably the nature of the book, as I said there is very little characterization happening, just snippets here and there, but it wasn't enough for me to throw down the book at the end and start hyperventilating like I did with Middlesex (slight exaggeration).

To end this I'll share one of my favorite parts of the book, a part I think really shows Eugenides talent at summing up human emotion in one little thing.

"Jerry Burden found the following doodle: a girl with pigtails is bent under the weight of a gigantic boulder. Her cheeks puff out, and her rounded lips expel steam. One widening steam cloud contains the word Pressure, darkly retraced" (142).

I give this book an A.

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The Virgin Suicides + TIME