Book Review: Middlesex

 I have been wanting to read Middlesex for a while now. It's one of those books that I've heard is a good read but not really anything about the plot, the characters, or the author, except for the fact that it's about a male born intersex. I've always been intrigued but as books came and went from my shelf, I remembered and unremembered this book until I remembered it one day at work and told my good friend and former co-worker that I wanted to read it and she gave me her copy. So here goes my thoughts and insights into this Pulitzer Prize-winning book, Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides. 

About the Author

Jeffrey Ken Eugenides is an American novelist and short story writer who has written numerous short

stories, essays, and a few novels including The Virgin Suicides, Middlesex, and The Marriage Plot. In 2018, Eugenides joined New York University's Creative Writing Program as a tenured full professor and the Lewis and Loretta Glucksman Professor in American Letters. Eugenides has been inducted into The American Academy of Arts and Letters and The American Academy of Arts and Science. 

About the Book

Middlesex was published in 2002 and has sold more than four million copies since its publication. The 21st Century gender novel chronicles the effect of a mutated gene on three generations of a Greek family, causing momentous changes in the protagonist's life. 

So begins the breathtaking story of Calliope Stephanie's and 3 generations of the Greek-American Stephanie's family who travel from a tiny village overlooking Mount Olympus to Prohibition-era Detroit, witnessing its glory days as the Motor City, and the race riots of 1967, before they move out of the to the tree-lined streets of suburban Grosse Point, Michigan. To understand why Calliope is not like other girls, she has to cover a guilty family secret and the astonishing genetic history that turns Callie into Cal, one of contemporary fiction's most audacious and wondrous narrators. Lyrical and thrilling, Jeffrey Eugenides takes us on an exhilarating reinvention of the American epic. 

My Thoughts

Middlesex is now on my top books. Easily top 5 for multiple reasons which I will get into right now.

First off, after reading this book, I have learned that I tend to like to read and watch immigrant stories, which is fitting because my college senior capstone was on an immigrant story. But I have learned I love learning about different immigrant stories, whether it's an American immigrating to France or a Greek immigrating to America in the 1920s.

 I find it fascinating and also sad, especially older immigration stories because most people don't really want to leave their home country, such as one of our main characters, Desdemona. I found the whole concept of her and her brother leaving their home country to immigrate to the U.S. because of the Turkish war and how that move affected her, her children, and her grandchildren to be devastating. And for readers who also enjoy immigrant stories, we see the sad effect of losing one's culture after just a couple of generations in this story.  

I felt that while this was one part immigrant story, this is also a story about gender and sexuality. Emphasis on sexuality. Reflecting now, I'm realizing that there was a strong theme of "forbidden love" or the shame one feels about more "taboo" sexual desires. From Lina being a lesbian in the 1920s, to Desdemona and Lefty's more than sibling love for each other, to Milton and Jessie's unknowing cousin love for each other, to Cal's sexuality and gender, there's a whole plethora of "taboo" or at least what was once seen as taboo love for others (okay maybe not the brother and sister thing, but you get what I mean). 

It's something that makes the reader think of the people in their lives who may have gone through the same thing and how others in earlier time periods had to go through this unnecessary shame they had to feel. It also sheds light on gender and sexuality and how the two aren't the same and how people are still the same people, regardless of who they choose to love and be. 

Our author does a great job of going into depth with each of our sets of characters. From exploring the world through the eyes of Desdemona and Lefty and their journey into assimilating into America to getting to know more about Cal and his upbringing, we are fed with so much detail but nothing ever feels unnecessary. Throughout the story, all the characters felt familiar, as if I had seen or read them somewhere else before. Thus they felt real, and I kept finding myself double-checking to make sure this was non-fiction.

I can't finish off my thoughts without talking about that car chase scene. The car chase scene at the end with Father Mike and Milton was the only instance where I kind of had a tinge that I was reading a fiction book, but it read so realistically that I felt it could still be real. That chapter was truly an epic way to end an epic tale. 

Overall, I enjoyed every moment of Middlesex. I loved the way Cal was the narrator and how it all came full circle at the end. I enjoyed learning about our characters and getting insight into their strife and yet come out better in the end. This is one of those stories that sticks with you and I know I'll be keeping this one on my shelf for years to come.

Until next time, Happy Reading!


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