When I was reading Jeffrey Eugenides' The Virgin Suicides, I could not help thinking of the move “Stand By Me.” Like that movie, The Virgin Suicides was apparently narrated by a male peer of the five girls that committed suicide. The whole suicide thing also made me think of the movie “Heathers.” The common thread between the two is the teenage drama motif that has bored me in the past. The Virgin Suicides is no exception.
This book was irritating because the story was based on dramatic teenage conjecture. At several areas in the story, the narrator admitted several details were not based on fact. Commenting on conditions the girls faced being holed up in their house by Mrs. Lisbon, the narrator said, “We'd like to tell you with authority what it was like inside the Lisbon house, or what the girls felt being imprisoned in it. Sometimes, drain by this investigation, we long for some shred of evidence, some Rosetta stone that would explain the girls at last. But even though that winter was certainly not a happy one, little more can be averred” (170). Later on, while explaining a dialogue the girls had with each other during a protest about the city cutting down their elm tree, the narrator said, “Actually, none of this might have been spoken. We've pieced it together through partial accounts, and can attest only to the general substance” (181). The majority of this story is based on an investigation conducted with less evidence and more fantasy.
I quickly became bored with the teenage boy narration simply because it has been done before. I remember the romanticized looks back in “Stand By Me” and this book lived up to that tired standard by spending way too much time talking about the many virtues of Trip Fontaine or how they as a group would always observe the Lisbon sisters being imprisoned in their house. Perhaps the boredom I experienced reading this story was the result of my own experiences as a teenage boy and being bored with those as an adult.
However, my biggest problem with this story is that it was not told from the Lisbon's point of view. Rather than rely on the notoriously lacking perspective of a teenage boy, I would rather learn what happened inside of the Lisbon house. What was said in private between the sisters? I believe Eugenides weakly skirted this issue during a discussion about how Miss Kilsem, a fake social worker that disappeared a year after the suicides, would allegedly meet with the sisters on Fridays. However, the records of these meetings were destroyed in an office fire five years later.
Conveniently, everything we know of the Lisbon sisters is from second hand sources. While this may be fine for some readers, I am less interested in reading about the perceptions of teenage boys and more interested in learning about what drove five girls to kill themselves. Thankfully this book is on the 1001 Books List, so I can feel better about accomplishing something by reading this book.