Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides

Middlesex is Oprah's summer book club pick and was a Pulitzer Prize winner a few years ago. I had heard of the book previously, but it didn't sound that interesting to me. Since Oprah picked it and I usually like her books, I decided I should broaden my horizons and read something I wouldn't normally read.

Middlesex tells the story of Cal Stephanides. Born Callie, Cal discovers at age 14 that she is a hermaphodite with an XY Chromosone and starts living life as a man. This the zinger that gets people talking about the book, but the book is more complex then that. It tells the story of the Stephanides family and the "gene" that traveled through time and created Cal. The story starts in Turkey in the 1920's with the burning of Smyrna and the incestous relationship that unites a brother and sister in marriage. They immigrate to the U.S. and settle in Detroit during it's glory days. They have two children. Milton is Cal's father, a WWII vet, he marries his cousin Tessie. They survive the 1960's and Detroit riots and the story tells the tale of Cal's complicated youth and more than complicated teenage years.

It's hard for me to adequately describe this novel. The first half or so was some of the best writing I have read in a while. Mr. Eugenides has beautiful description and wonderful narrative describing the history of the family. I especially loved the description of Detroit. You can tell Eugenides is from D-town and has a love for it. The secondary story of the book is the story of Detroit - from the roaring 1920's (I was imaging what it most have been like for my Grandparents there!) through the 1970's busing, it was fantastic.

I felt that the last part of the book left something to be desired. SPOILER ALERT - I really disliked Milton's death off of the Ambassador Bridge. While the slow speed chase was funny, I thought that the sudden change in Father Mike's character was rather abrupt and strange. I thought it would have been far more profound story telling to have Milton meet Callie as Cal and either accept or reject him. I didn't like Cal's California trip - it seemed like a sidebar that took away from the real character of the story. I would have rather had more details about the doctor and more about how Cal is able to make the change when he gets back to his "normal" home in Grosse Pointe.

Overall, I liked this novel a lot, but was disappointed in the ending or last 1/3 of the book.

1 comment:

  1. I enjoyed reading your review, Laura, which you wrote nearly two years ago to the day I posted mine. I'm glad you put in the "spoiler alert" to warn others.