Saturday, July 05, 2008


Middlesex, Jeffrey Eugenides, Farrar Straus and Giroux, 2002, 529 pp

I guess everyone in the world had already read this book. It won the Pulitzer Prize in 2003 and went on to be an Oprah selection. I even found two copies of it in my house. Finally it was picked as a selection in one of my reading groups. (I am currently in 5 reading groups.) So now I have read it too!

I liked it; it is a bit over-written in sections and thus over-long, but generally I enjoy long books. I learned plenty about human hermaphrodites, which caused me to recall that I became interested in genetics back in high school, except then I got a steady boyfriend and my sexual research took place with him. Since I lived in Ann Arbor, MI, for all of my early adult years, I loved that the book is mostly set in Detroit from 1922 to 1975.

What I enjoyed most was the main character. Calliope Stephanides was born a girl with Greek parents and a big fat extended family, but because of a recessive mutation on her fifth chromosome, she turned out to be a boy. As Cali becomes Cal, we learn the entire story of her family from a small Turkish town where Greeks lived in the shadow of oppressive Turks, to how that quirky chromosome showed up and made this character's life a misery.

It is not however a book about misery. It is about large characters, American society, love and coming of age. I now have scenes of joy, despair, humor, sex, shady business, and private girls school indelibly in my mind. Middlesex raised as many questions as it answered and maybe that is why I will never forget it.

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