Saturday, August 23, 2014

100 Book Project: Book #62: The Book I Would Trade for My Puppy

The Virgin Suicides by Jeffery Eugenides.

Wow. Ten words into this book I knew I was reading something written by a genius writer and storyteller. Ten pages into the book I couldn't put the book down. Ten pages later I check the front and see when the book was published in 1993, the second year of my PhD at FSU and some of the darkest loneliest times of my life.

I wish I'd read this book and let the authors brilliant words and masterful plot crafting move me.   I guess the saying is true, "When the reader is ready, the story appears" and I wasn't ready for the wisdom and beauty of these pages yet. (I made the saying up, you aren't going crazy).

This book is as good as Great Expectations (the writing is better) and needs to be on every shelf that already contains The Perks of Being a Wallflower,  Catcher in the Rye, Paper Towns and other coming of age books.

What is so great about this lyrical tragedy? Everything.

Tied for first place: the writing and the plot.  

Here are four quotes from pages 168-169, which I randomly picked. Every single page of this book is this sharp.
"Sometimes as she (Mrs. Karafilis) passed we'd tell her the latest about the girls, and she'd cry, "Mana!" which meant something like "Holy Shit!" 

"We  Greeks are moody people. Suicide makes sense to us. Putting up Christmas lights after your own daughter does it - that makes no sense." 
"Winter is the season of alcoholism and despair. Count the drunks in Russia or the suicides at Cornell." 

"From her weekly baths of Epson salts, she talked of the girls, or to them,  we couldn't tell which. We didn't get too close or listen at the keyhole because the few contradictory glimpse we'd gotten of Old Mrs. Karafilis, with her sagging breasts from another century, her blue legs, her undone hair shockingly long and glossy as a girls, filled us with embarrassment."
Here is a quick plot overview.

A group of middle aged men convene retrace the lives and deaths of the girls in one family who all committed suicide when they were all in high school together.

Their investigation lead them to interview characters that pop from the pages reflecting the good and bad and ugly goings on in 1950s white suburbs.

I was concerned this book might glorify suicide (like the book "Thirteen Reasons" which you should NOT give a teenager) but at the very end the narrator's tone changes from investigator to a mature man who is looking for closure over this

The book concludes with the admission that the investigating group will never know the true reasons all 5 girls in one family commit suicide and that their entire journey to piece the truth together has just been chasing after the wind because "the essence of the suicides consisted not of sadness or mystery but simple selfishness. The girls took it into their hands decisions better left to God... they went to be alone for all time, alone in suicide, which is deeper than death, and where we will never find the pieces to put them back together." (243)

Read this book and pass it on to a friend.

PS, Jordyn H** ~ I'm not sure I will be able to give you this book back, I love it too much. Can I offer you a very sweet puppy with sharp teeth instead?