First published in 1993, The Virgin Suicides announced the arrival of a major new American novelist. In a quiet suburb of Detroit, the five Lisbon sisters—beautiful, eccentric, and obsessively watched by the neighborhood boys—commit suicide one by one over the course of a single year. As the boys observe them from afar, transfixed, they piece together the mystery of the family's fatal melancholy, in this hypnotic and unforgettable novel of adolescent love, disquiet, and death. Jeffrey Eugenides evokes the emotions of youth with haunting sensitivity and dark humor and creates a coming-of-age story unlike any of our time. The Virgin Suicides is a modern classic, a lyrical and timeless tale of sex and suicide that transforms and mythologizes suburban middle-American life.
"A piercing first novel . . . Incantatory prose . . . The narrator's hypnotic voice succeeds in transporting us to that mythic realm where fate, not common sense or psychology, holds sway. By turns lyrical and portentous, ferocious and elegiac, The Virgin Suicides insinuates itself into our minds as a small but powerful opera in the unexpected form of a novel."—Michiko Kakutani, The New York Times"Mr. Eugenides is blessed with the storyteller's most magical gift, the ability to transform the mundane into the extraordinary."—Suzanne Berne, 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 naïveté surrounding these bizarre events."—The Wall Street Journal"[A] comic and elegiac first novel . . . Eugenides is one of those rare writers who can manage sympathy and detachment simultaneously—and work small wonders with words while he's at it. As The Virgin Suicides puts its heroines through hell, its readers, weirdly enough, will be delighted."—David Gates, Newsweek"The Virgin Suicides takes the dark stuff of Greek tragedy and reworks it into an eccentric, mesmerizing, frequently hilarious American fantasy about the tyranny of unrequited love, and the unknowable heart of every family on earth—but especially the family next door . . . There's much here that's marvelously original, and like Philip Roth's Goodbye, Columbus or Amy Tan's The Joy Luck Club, this is one of those debuts that tell you you are present at the beginning of a major career and make you glad you own a first edition."—Tom De Haven, Entertainment Weekly"Rhapsodic . . . With a deft, often comedic touch, Eugenides examines the concept of mass suicide in a way that might, in less assured hands, strain a reader's credulity. By skillfully displaying the parents' inability to succor the grief of their surviving daughters and by showing a father 'with the lost look of a man who realized that all this dying was going to be all the life he ever had,' the author makes the reader understand the lemminglike conduct of a group of adolescent siblings. By turns hypnotic and elegiac, the novel manages to sustain a high level of suspense in what is clearly an impressive debut."—People"Eugenides's remarkable first novel opens on a startling note: 'On the morning the last Lisbon daughter took her turn at suicide . . . 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.' What follows is not, however, a horror novel, but a finely crafted work of literary if slightly macabre imagination. In an unnamed town in the slightly distant past, detailed in such precise and limpid prose that readers will surely feel that they grew up there, Cecilia—the youngest and most obviously wacky of the luscious Lisbon girls—finally succeeds in taking her own life. As the confused neighbors watch rather helplessly, the remaining sisters become isolated and unhinged, ending it all in a spectacular multiple suicide anticipated from the first page. Eugenides's engrossing writing style keeps one reading despite a creepy feeling that one shouldn't be enjoying it so much. A black, glittering novel."—Barbara Hoffert, Library Journal"Eugenides's tantalizing, macabre first novel begins with a suicide, the first of the five bizarre deaths of the teenage daughters in the Lisbon family; the rest of the work, set in the author's native Michigan in the early 1970s, is a backward-looking quest as the male narrator and his nosy, horny pals describe how they strove to understand the odd clan of this first chapter, which appeared in the Paris Review, where it won the 1991 Aga Khan Prize for fiction . . .Eugenides's voice is so fresh and compelling, his powers of observation so startling and acute, that most will be mesmerized. The title derives from a song by the fictional rock band Cruel Crux, a favorite of the Lisbon daughter Lux—who, unlike her sisters Therese, Mary, Bonnie and Cecilia, is anything but a virgin by the tale's end. Her mother forces Lux to burn the album along with others she considers dangerously provocative. Mr. Lisbon, a mild-mannered high school math teacher, is driven to resign by parents who believe his control of their children may be as deficient as his control of his own brood . . . Under the narrator's goofy, posturing banter are some hard truths: mortality is a fact of life; teenage girls are more attracted to brawn than to brains (contrary to the testimony of the narrator's male relatives). This is an auspicious debut from an imaginative and talented writer."—Publishers Weekly
Jefferey Eugenides was born in Detroit and attended Brown and Stanford universities. The Virgin Suicides was published in 1993 and was adapted into a motion picture in 1999 by Sophia Coppola. His second novel, Middlesex, won the Pulitzer Prize in 2003. He joined the faculty of Princeton University in the fall of 2007.
Sam Tanenhaus of the New York Times interviews the author in his hometown of Detroit about his novels.