Before I read this book, I had heard about how great of a novel it was.
I found it on listicles of best new books and of contemporary books that should be taught in schools one day.
I knew friends that had read it and had seen several different copies on the shelves in Barnes and Noble; yet, despite all of these interactions with the book, I had no idea what Middlesex was about until I started reading it (I didn’t even read the back cover before beginning).
Middlesex tells the story of Greek American Calliope Stephanides, an intersex person who realizes in his teens that he might identify as a boy more than the girl.
Narrating the story from a later point in his life, Cal explores his difficulties navigating both new relationships and old ones from his childhood. He also reveals details about his family history; his recount spans several generations as he explains how his ancestors left a war-infested Greece to come to America, engaging in an incestuous relationship along the way that eventually resulted in the genetic mutation that enables Cal to occupy this middle ground between the sexes.
For me, this novel’s defining feature isn’t about gender ambiguity. Nor is it about incest or war-torn families. This novel is about shifts–shifts in social, political, cultural, spiritual, biological, and environmental patterns. While Cal is the protagonist and the novel’s title most certainly hints at his transition, every member of the Stephanides family engages in some sort of major change throughout the novel. For instance, Lefty and Desmonda move in with their child’s family, while later Milton loses his small restaurant but creates his Hercules Hot Dog chain. The amount of detail in each part of the storyline helps these shifts take form as Eugenides constructs a contemporary epic; the author definitely conducted a lot of research to supplement each period of his novel.
Overall, I didn’t mind this book from Eugenides; however, I did feel like it was a little dull and drawn-out at times, but I guess that’s what you should expect for a novel compared to an epic. Personally, I didn’t care for Cal’s present-day storyline as I was more interested in the parts about his family, especially his parents. I loved all the minute details about the church where Desmonda worked and about the family’s cars; for me, those pieces really put in perspective the different time periods and the changes between generations of the family.
Nicole’s Rating: 3/5