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Authors: Jeffrey Eugenides

The Virgin Suicides

BOOK: The Virgin Suicides
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Praise for
The Virgin Suicides


“Deftly written and intricately imagined … sizzling.”


“Mr. Eugenides is blessed with the storyteller’s most magical gift, the ability to transform the mundane into the extraordinary.”

The New York Times Book Review

“Arresting … uncannily evokes the wry voice of adolescence and a mixture of curiosity, lust, tenderness, morbidity, cynicism, and the naiveté surrounding these bizarre events.”

The Wall Street Journal

“Displays a certain brilliance … Eugenides has a voice dreamy with mythology and a point of view carved from the poignancy of adolescence. The resulting sensibility is both elegant and quirky, and it infuses his first novel with a graceful, reasoned confidence.… Wistful, gloomy, and chillingly funny at once … A fiercely antipastoral novel—one with a shocking, elegiac sadness in the eaves.”

The Boston Globe

“Rhapsodic … with a deft, often comedic touch … By turns hypnotic and elegiac, the novel manages to sustain a high level of suspense in what is clearly an impressive debut.”


“A rare first novel that ends wondrously, on a note of profoundest, most elegant grief.”

John Hawkes

“Remarkable … a black, glittering novel … Eugenides’s engrossing writing style keeps one reading despite a creepy feeling that one shouldn’t be enjoying it so much.”

Library Journal

“Compelling … The book is a balance of sweet awkwardness and contemporary horror, with enough classical, mythic, and religious references to give English lit doctoral candidates a contact high.… [The
Virgin Suicides]
is funny, poignant, full of the conflicts of growing up at a disordered time and place.”

The Miami Herald

“A lyrical and, at times, darkly humorous tale.”


“A hypnotic storyteller … A beautiful, funny, and touching novel … Jeffrey Eugenides has created a mythology out of the ostensibly common materials of middle-class, middle-American life … purveying a kind of domestic magic realism which is all his own.”

Jay McInerney

“Piercing … With its incantatory prose, its fascination with teenage tragedy, and its preoccupation with memory and desire and loss … 
The Virgin Suicides
insinuates itself into our minds as a small but powerful opera in the unexpected form of a novel.”

The New York Times



“Tantalizing … Eugenides’s voice is so fresh and compelling, his powers of observation so startling and acute, that most will be mesmerized.… An auspicious debut from an imaginative and talented writer.”

Publishers Weekly
(starred review)

“Brassy and laden with irony … yet it achieves its own odd level of tragedy as well, elaborating the scrollwork of teen fantasy in its funniest and most nightmarish possibilities.”


“A remarkable and beautiful book.”

Gilbert Sorrentino

“The beginning of a major career … Like Philip Roth’s
Goodbye, Columbus
or Amy Tan’s
The Joy Luck Club
, this is one of those debuts that make you glad to own your own first edition.”

Entertainment Weekly

“Not to be missed … Debut novelist Eugenides is a heavyweight: Proof of it is in nearly every pitch-perfect sentence of this startling and very good book.… [He] writes just about as well as anyone in recent memory has about male teenage desire, mythologizing, and half-rational thought.… Maybe the most eccentrically successful, genuinely lyrical first novel since William Wharton’s

Kirkus Reviews
(starred review)

“Extraordinary … remarkable … Eugenides celebrates, grieves, and honors the mystery of the most commonplace lives.”

The Times

“Eugenides weaves a sinuous spell.… In most coming-of-age novels, a thin black line separates intensity from banality, but the peculiar hormonal lyricism of
The Virgin Suicides
is shot through with sneaky black humor that banishes sentimentality and sociology … all the funny-sad effluvia of growing up concentrated and purified into a slender, intoxicating book.”


“An impressive first novel … one of the most macabre denouements in recent fiction.”




Title Page



Chapter One

Chapter Two

Chapter Three

Chapter Four

Chapter Five

About the Author

, 2011

Copyright © 1993 Jeffrey Eugenides

All rights reserved under International and Pan-American Copyright Conventions. No part of this book may be reproduced in any form or by any electronic or mechanical means, including information storage and retrieval systems, without permission in writing from the publisher, except by a reviewer, who may quote brief passages in a review.

Published in Canada by Vintage Canada, a division of Random House of Canada Limited, Toronto, in 2011. Originally published in hardcover in the United States of America by Farrar, Straus and Giroux, a division of Macmillan, New York, in 1993. Distributed by Random House of Canada Limited.

Vintage Canada with colophon is a registered trademark.

Library and Archives Canada Cataloguing in Publication

Eugenides, Jeffrey
    The virgin suicides / Jeffrey Eugenides.

Originally publ.: New York : Farrar Straus Giroux, 1993.

eISBN: 978-0-307-40193-9

    I. Title.

57 2011       813′.54       

Cover design by Henry Sene Yee

Cover photograph by Justine Kurland, courtesy Mitchell Ines and Nash Gallery


For Gus and Wanda

On the morning the last Lisbon daughter took her turn at suicide—it was Mary this time, and sleeping pills, like Therese—the two paramedics arrived at the house knowing exactly where the knife drawer was, and the gas oven, and the beam in the basement from which it was possible to tie a rope. They got out of the EMS truck, as usual moving much too slowly in our opinion, and the fat one said under his breath, “This ain’t TV, folks, this is how fast we go.” He was carrying the heavy respirator and cardiac unit past the bushes that had grown monstrous and over the erupting lawn, tame and immaculate thirteen months earlier when the trouble began.

Cecilia, the youngest, only thirteen, had gone first, slitting her wrists like a Stoic while taking a bath, and when they found her, afloat in her pink pool, with the yellow eyes of someone possessed and her small body giving off the odor of a mature woman, the paramedics had been so frightened by her tranquillity that they had stood mesmerized. But then Mrs. Lisbon lunged in, screaming, and the reality of the room reasserted itself: blood on the bath mat; Mr. Lisbon’s razor sunk in the toilet bowl, marbling the water. The paramedics fetched Cecilia out of the warm water because it quickened the bleeding, and put a tourniquet on her arm. Her wet hair hung down her back and already her extremities were blue. She didn’t say a word, but when they parted her hands they found the laminated picture of the Virgin Mary she held against her budding chest.

That was in June, fish-fly season, when each year our town is covered by the flotsam of those ephemeral insects. Rising in clouds from the algae in the polluted lake, they blacken windows, coat cars and streetlamps, plaster the municipal docks and festoon the rigging of sailboats, always in the same brown ubiquity of flying scum. Mrs. Scheer, who lives down the street, told us she saw Cecilia the day before she attempted suicide. She was standing by the curb, in the antique wedding dress with the shorn hem she always wore, looking at a Thunderbird encased in fish flies. “You better get a broom, honey,” Mrs. Scheer advised. But Cecilia fixed her with her spiritualist’s gaze. “They’re dead,” she said. “They only live twenty-four hours. They hatch, they reproduce, and then they croak. They don’t even get to eat.” And with that she stuck her hand into the foamy layer of bugs and cleared her initials:

We’ve tried to arrange the photographs chronologically, though the passage of so many years has made it difficult. A few are fuzzy but revealing nonetheless. Exhibit #1 shows the Lisbon house shortly before Cecilia’s suicide attempt. It was taken by a real estate agent, Ms. Carmina D’Angelo, whom Mr. Lisbon had hired to sell the house his large family had long outgrown. As the snapshot shows, the slate roof had not yet begun to shed its shingles, the porch was still visible above the bushes, and the windows were not yet held together with strips of masking tape. A comfortable suburban home. The upper-right second-story window contains a blur that Mrs. Lisbon identified as Mary Lisbon. “She used to tease her hair because she thought it was limp,” she said years later, recalling how her daughter had looked for her brief time on earth. In the photograph Mary is caught in the act of blow-drying her hair. Her head appears to be on fire but that is only a trick of the light. It was June 13, eighty-three degrees out, under sunny skies.

When the paramedics were satisfied they had reduced the bleeding to a trickle, they put Cecilia on a stretcher and carried her out of the house to the truck in the driveway. She looked like a tiny Cleopatra on an imperial litter. We saw the gangly paramedic with the Wyatt Earp mustache come out first—the one we’d call “Sheriff” when we got to know him better through these domestic tragedies—and then the fat one appeared, carrying the back end of the stretcher and stepping daintily across the lawn, peering at his police-issue shoes as though looking out for dog shit, though later, when we were better acquainted with the machinery, we knew he was checking the blood pressure gauge. Sweating and fumbling, they moved toward the shuddering, blinking truck. The fat one tripped on a lone croquet wicket. In revenge he kicked it; the wicket sprang loose, plucking up a spray of dirt, and fell with a ping on the driveway. Meanwhile, Mrs. Lisbon burst onto the porch, trailing Cecilia’s flannel nightgown, and let out a long wail that stopped time. Under the molting trees and above the blazing, overexposed grass those four figures paused in tableau: the two slaves offering the victim to the altar (lifting the stretcher into the truck), the priestess brandishing the torch (waving the flannel nightgown), and the drugged virgin rising up on her elbows, with an otherworldly smile on her pale lips.

Mrs. Lisbon rode in the back of the EMS truck, but Mr. Lisbon followed in the station wagon, observing the speed limit. Two of the Lisbon daughters were away from home, Therese in Pittsburgh at a science convention, and Bonnie at music camp, trying to learn the flute after giving up the piano (her hands were too small), the violin (her chin hurt), the guitar (her fingertips bled), and the trumpet (her upper lip swelled). Mary and Lux, hearing the siren, had run home from their voice lesson across the street with Mr. Jessup. Barging into that crowded bathroom, they registered the same shock as their parents at the sight of Cecilia with her spattered forearms and pagan nudity. Outside, they hugged on a patch of uncut grass that Butch, the brawny boy who mowed it on Saturdays, had missed. Across the street, a truckful of men from the Parks Department attended to some of our dying elms. The EMS siren shrieked, going away, and the botanist and his crew withdrew their insecticide pumps to watch the truck. When it was gone, they began spraying again. The stately elm tree, also visible in the foreground of Exhibit #1, has since succumbed to the fungus spread by Dutch elm beetles, and has been cut down.

BOOK: The Virgin Suicides
5.97Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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