Monday, April 18, 2011

"We Greeks get married in circles, to impress upon ourselves the essential matrimonial facts: that to be happy you have to find variety in repetition; that to go forward you have to come back where you began." - Calliope

Middlesex - Jeffrey Eugenides
529 pages
Genre:  Literary Fiction; Bildungsroman
Pulitzer Prize Winner (2003)

Summary:  Middlesex is the story of the Stephanides’, a Greek immigrant family who migrated to Detroit after their village was burned down during a devastating war in the 1920s.  The story unfolds through the eyes of Calliope, a hermaphrodite, and she explains why it’s important to go back that far in her story, even though she wasn’t born until much later, as it helps to explain what made her who she is. 

Review:  I tend to be a pretty quick reader; it’s just the way my brain interprets information.  With Middlesex, however, I found myself lingering over the pages much longer than I usually do, as I really wanted to ensure that I was completely absorbing every passage.  This book was lyrical, exceptionally well-written, and I think I would place it in the top ten best books I’ve ever read.

Middlesex allowed me to run the gamut of emotions, from extreme happiness to incredible sadness.  The book shook me up, freaked me out, made me laugh, and made me think, and I couldn’t help but feel emotionally involved with the story.  Each character was extremely well done and unique, and I felt as though they were sitting right next to me, telling their stories.  I really liked that Middlesex was told through the eyes of Calliope/Cal.  I don’t think I’ve ever read a story told by a hermaphrodite before, nor had I ever really thought about it, and it must have been incredibly hard for Cal to find out about it so late in life.

One of the best things about Middlesex for me was the focus on Detroit.  I’ve been a metro-Detroiter for my entire life (minus a year in grad school), and I’ve always heard stories about what the city used to be like.  There are still reminders of its former glory downtown (it’s not a complete wasteland, as the media likes to portray it), and it was wonderful to see the Detroit of the past come to life.  I could see the men toiling away at the factory, feel the terror of the consequences of rum running, and hear the shouts during the race riots.  Part of my family actually immigrated to Detroit around the same time as the family in the story, and while we aren’t Greek, it was really cool to get a glimpse of what life might have been like for them.

I honestly can’t recommend this book enough.  If you’re a person who enjoys really well-written family sagas with a nod to history, Middlesex is an absolute must read.

Other Books by this Author:  The Virgin Suicides, The Marriage Plot (should be released later this year)

Rating: 5/5


  1. I read this book in high school and loved it, even though I didn't expect to. I need to reread it so I can really appreciate it.