Middlesex

First comes the apology for my unexpected blogging hiatus.  As I mentioned in my previous post, I was a bit under the weather last week.  Once I was feeling more human, I was busy playing catch-up at work and trying to get ready for the holidays (service projects, card writing, shopping, party planning).  But as a very special return post, I'm happy to share a review of a book that impressed my socks off - happy Christmas socks, that is, featuring little puppies and kitties in Santa hats... the socks, not the book.

Ambitious in scope and epic in execution, Middlesex by Jeffery Eugenides is an amazing story not just for its sweeping family saga but for its remarkable narrator. Calliope "Cal" Stephanides is a hermaphrodite - genetically male but raised as a female - and the genetic mutation that led to his condition is rooted in the history of his family. Though Cal is introduced immediately, the majority of the story is told in the past - from Cal's grandparents, Greek immigrants Lefty and Desdemona; to his parents Milton and Tessie.

The unique relationships between the two couples is almost as captivating as their surroundings. Settling in Detroit, Michigan, Lefty and Desdemona's tale corresponds to the city's glory days of Ford. As the next generation takes the focus of the narration, the landscape shifts as well and Cal's parents witness the race riots of the sixties and follow the white exodus to suburban Grosse Pointe, where Cal and his brother are raised.

Eugenides succeeds not only in revealing the complex history of Detroit, but in telling the book with an amazing flair for detail. Some of the characters are painted so richly with personalities that jump off the page while others are classified precisely by their lack thereof. Cal's parents were complete with their own back-stories, hobbies, quirks, and talents; meanwhile Cal's brother is only ever referred to cleverly as "Chapter Eleven". Everything about the story feels real and more than once I found myself running an internet search on a business, neighborhood, or event to distinguish facts from Eugenides's fiction.
I must admit that I had this book on my "To Read" list for a long time and was unfairly prejudiced against the story - which I assumed would revolve primarily around gender identity issues. What I found was a book that did deal with gender and sexuality, but through the eyes of a witty and unique narrator that I came to love, because I was first introduced to his captivating family saga. I was swept up by the Stephanides's history and as Cal interspersed his own struggles into the tale - complete with a decent dose of science and genetics - I felt like a member of the family. I'm also not normally swayed by awards and accolades on book covers, but Middlesex deserves all the praise and attention it has received. I was thoroughly amazed by this book and can easily say it's one of the best I have read this year.

4 Response to "Middlesex"

  1. Becky (Page Turners) says:
    December 15, 2011 at 9:30 PM

    I loved this book as well. I did think that it moved a little too slowly through her high school years, but other than that I couldn't put it down. The Virgin Suicides is also a wonderful book. I am currently erading the Marriage Plot which is good as wel, but it doesn't compare really with Middlesex and The Virgin Suicides, not for me anyway

  2. Beth D. says:
    December 16, 2011 at 7:09 AM

    Sounds like a good one! nice review!

    Beth ^_^

  3. Sam (Tiny Library) says:
    December 17, 2011 at 10:09 AM

    Yes, I loved this too! Like you, I thought it would all be about gender and was pleasantly surprised by how broad it was. I loved the story of the grandparents, that could almost have been a book all by itself.

  4. thebookstop says:
    December 22, 2011 at 10:18 AM

    I've enjoyed all Eugenides' books, and I love how different each one is. Just finished The Marriage Plot and thought it was wonderful.

Post a Comment

I love reading, I love blogging, and I love comments! Please feel free to chime in on any post new or old, or if you have any overall feedback or something to say about this blog in general I'd love to hear that too! Thanks for sharing your thoughts and have a wonderful day!