annotation by Heather Luby
I was surprised and refreshed by the unique narrative craft in this novel. As a writer, I was astonished and moved by the language and description, but I was even more captivated by Eugenides ability to use a multiple person point of view to present the events of the novel in a way that gave them greater wisdom and meaning. Even though the novel centers on the suicide of five teen girls, the book did not rely on the shocking subject matter to engage the reader in the story. Eugenides tells the reader from the beginning what will happen to the Lisbon sisters and the reader is directed to focus on the landscape, the community, and the interior lives of the narrators — the things that will continue to exist, altered and maimed by the events, but alive.
All of this is possible because of the narrative device of first person plural utilized by Eugenides. The multiple narrators, all unknown, but alike in characteristics, gives the book a point of view that feels more comprehensive. These grown men looking back on their innocence and youth paint a layered and complex tapestry of emotion. Eugenides could have used this device and made it much more overt, depending on it as a crutch or gimmick to carry the story. But while the multiple narrators lend a depth of credibility to the story, he does not focus on the shifting POVs; instead they are seamless and almost completely unnoticeable.
As a reader I felt that that this type of narration allowed me to feel like are part of the collective, part of a conversation. While told form the male POV, I never felt alienated. It made me feel as if I were part of the story too and simply trying sitting around with friends trying to recapture something from the past. I’m sure others might disagree, but I felt that the use of “we” made the novel very intimate.
While the men telling us this story are bookmarking this stage of their life with the suicide of the Lisbon girls, we all bookmark our lives with the remembrances of the inexplicable in our lives. The true mastery of this novel lies in Eugenides precision in observation, so that we feel we are part of the collective memory of the narrators, not just simple readers safe in our beds, but part of the gang still trying to make sense of the world around us.