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1-Page Summary of The Virgin Suicides
The Virgin Suicides takes place in the early 1970s, set in an American suburb. The reader knows from the start what happens to the five girls, as told from a group of men’s point of view twenty years later. At that time they were teenagers and their story is one of passive happiness and manufactured results—dire ones at that.
The story starts with an ambulance arriving to pick up Mary Lisbon’s body. She and her four sisters committed suicide, and the book goes back in time to show readers how they got there. Cecilia is found in a bathtub with her wrists slit open. Paramedics are able to save her life, but she ends up jumping out of a window at home after returning from the hospital. The cemetery workers go on strike so that Cecilia must remain in the mortuary until it ends. Since no one knows what happened, people read through Cecilia’s diary for answers about why she killed herself or why her sisters did too.
The neighborhood is preparing for autumn and the kids are returning to school. Lux Lisbon catches Trip Fontaine’s eye, as he drives by in his car. He offers her a ride home from school and they kiss in his car. When they’re discovered, Lux’s mother grounds her. At this time, news about Cecilia’s suicide hits the media. Articles are published and local news stations interview suicidal teenagers. The media also initiates a mail campaign to raise awareness of teen suicide at schools across the country on “Day of Grieving”. At school, a Day of Grieving is organized by students where people gather together to honor those who have committed suicide recently (the remaining Lisbon sisters avoid it by hiding in the bathroom). A social worker reaches out to them but their help isn’t effective enough for them because there was no one around when Cecilia died or after she died that could really help them with their grief over losing their sister.
The Lisbon girls’ parents allow them to attend Homecoming, and Lux goes with Trip. They are crowned Homecoming Queen and King. Afterward, Lux accompanies Trip to the football field where they have sex, but then Trip dumps her by leaving her alone on the football field. She is an hour late for curfew because she had to walk home alone after being dumped by him. Mrs. Lisbon punishes Lux by demanding that she destroy her rock music records and puts the house on lockdown so that they can no longer go outside or leave home without permission from their mother. The girls no longer attend school since they cannot get out of the house anymore, so now there’s a lot of disarray in their living space since all five sisters live together with only one bathroom in their small house filled with dirty dishes and laundry piled up everywhere, which makes it seem like a messier version of hell than before when at least some semblance of order remained amidst chaos
In the novel, neighborhood boys watch Lux Lisbon meet with strange men on the roof of her house. After a few weeks pass, she goes to the hospital for a stomachache and gets pregnant. Her father is forced to resign from his job after parents criticize him for his home conditions and treatment of his daughters. The house starts emitting horrible odors that make people sick, but the girls pretend everything is normal even though they start getting sick too.
In the spring, city workers come to remove a diseased tree from the Lisbon property. However, the girls protest and the tree remains. As summer wears on, some boys start receiving messages from them by playing pop songs over the phone. On June 15th at midnight they enter their house to try to rescue them but Lux delays their progress through it while Mary attempts suicide but survives.