Author: Jeffrey Eugenides
Number of pages: 544
Started: 19 May 2012
Finished: 30 May 2012
I was born twice: first, as a baby girl, on a remarkably smogless Detroit day in January of 1960; and then again, as a teenage boy, in an emergency room near Petoskey, Michigan, in August of 1974. Specialized readers may have come across me in Dr. Peter Luce's study, "Gender Identity in 5-Alpha-Reductase Pseudohermaphrodites," published in the Journal of Pediatric Endocrinology in 1975. Or maybe you've seen my photograph in chapter sixteen of the now sadly outdated Genetics and Heredity. That's me on page 578, standing naked beside a height chart with a black box covering my eyes.
'I was born twice: first, as a baby girl, on a remarkably smogless Detroit day of January 1960; and then again, as a teenage boy, in an emergency room near Petoskey, Michigan, in August of l974. My birth certificate lists my name as Calliope Helen Stephanides. My most recent driver's license records my first name simply as Cal.' So begins the breathtaking story of Calliope Stephanides, and three generations of the Greek-American Stephanides family who travel from a tiny village overlooking Mount Olympus in Asia Minor to Prohibition era Detroit, witnessing its glory days as the Motor City, and the race riots of l967, before they move out to the tree-lined streets of suburban Grosse Point, Michigan. To understand why Calliope is not like other girls, she has to uncover a guilty family secret, and the astonishing genetic history that turns Callie into Cal, one of the most audacious and wondrous narrators in contemporary fiction. Lyrical and thrilling, "Middlesex" is an exhilarating reinvention of the American epic.
What I thought:
I read this book as part of a group read over at Me and My Big Mouth. This was not my first Eugenides novel, having read The Virgin Suicides previously and enjoyed that,
This book was not what I expected. It was much more family epic, much more about the things that made the main character, Cal, come into being. It was a book narrated by Cal, who had omniscient qualities at times seeing things back in the mists of time and certainly well beyond Cal’s sphere of knowledge. That isn’t a fault, that is part of what makes the book what it is, but it casts doubts on the accuracy of the narration.
It was a readable book, although perhaps a bit longer than it needed to be. It was also an interesting reading experience moving through the novel with the aid of other people’s observations. The book was worth reading, although not as good a read as The Virgin Suicides.