Friday, February 09, 2007

Middlesex - Jeffrey Eugenides

The Basics: Middlesex, Jeffrey Eugenides, 2002, 529 pages, paperback, winner of the of Pulitzer Prize for fiction in 2003.

How I found it: My youngest sister gave it to my for Christmas. Apparently she quite liked it.

What's it about?: A story of three generations of a Greek immigrant family in the American Mid-West, the youngest member of which happens to be a hermaphrodite (hence the title). Cal (or Callie) the narrator lets the viewer in on his secret on the very first page, but we have to wait until about 2/3 of the way in to find out the details of how he discovered he was a hermaphrodite and what that has meant for his life. Cal tells the story as if he is speaking to the reader in his free time. He takes us through the lives of his grandparents and his parents, and finally his own life up to the present.

Did I like it?: I couldn't put this one down. Eugenides' style of writing made me believe that I was reading an autobiography, not a work of fiction. Even if the author were to have left out Cal's portion of the story, the section on his grandparent's flight from Greece to America and their struggle to establish themselves in their new country would be a good book all by itself. The only thing I didn't like about this book was that it is a little long. At over 500 pages, I felt it would have been better off as two books, one a sequel (or a prequel) to the other.

Would you like it?: I highly recommend this book. It's a great story about an immigrant family and their family dynamic. In addition, this is also a coming of age novel (although the person coming of age happens to be a hermaphrodite. I didn't know anything at all about intersexed people, so this book was rather educational in that regard.

But don't take my word for it: A review from, one from CNN's archives, the usual collection of reviews from, some reader reviews, a review from New York Magazine, and finally one from The Guardian.

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