Author: Jeffrey Eugenides
Published: Bloomsbury Publishing, 1993
The five Lisbon sisters are the unnamed narrator's beautiful and mysterious neighbors. The narrator and his friends (teenage boys) are obsessed with every move the girls take and worship the ground they walk on. At first you'd think that the sisters are some perfect, angelic beings, but they're not. It's mentioned that they all have crowded teeth, and some walk duck footed or have upper lip hair. The girls are real people. (They felt too perfect to me in the movie. Kristen Dunst? AJ Cook? Come on.) The Lisbon parents are very overprotective, but when the youngest sister makes a suicide attempt, they become even stricter. I couldn't quite tell why the parents were so fanatic. Was it religion? Or just wanting to protect the girls' innocence?
As time goes on and certain events happen, the girls are put on stricter and stricter lock-down to the point they are withdrawn from school and barely let outside. That's when the girls hit their breaking point and, well, the title comes into play. The book is a haunting look at how a typical white-picket fence community in the 70s reacts to "the year of the suicides" and tried to come together to protect itself. I wanted to know more personally about the narrator. He's telling the story as a middle-aged adult looking back at a year in high school, yet he's clearly still obsessed. I wish we could see more about how the girls' actions affected him in the few years afterward. Reading the book made me realize that the movie, in pure Sofia Coppola form, is too minimal. The book and movie are the same in that the use of dialogue is sparse, but the book gives us much more detail and insight into how the girls lived their lives and for all practical purposes, struggled to survive.