sentina, November 23, 2012 (view all comments by sentina)
What an appropriate title for a book that deals with "the third sex" -- hermaphrodites who are the one percent of people born with physical and hormonal characteristics of both male and female genders. "Middlesex" is a blend of racial, social, sexual, and family dynamics, as well as history, reproductive science, genetics, economics, politics, environment, and personal experience that is surprisingly non-egocentric and touching.
Jeffrey Eugenides writes as though the main character, Calliope, is a fully aware and functioning person waiting to be born over several generations and observing everything that is going on, even as some cells in her/his mother. This fantasy actually lends credibility to the sequence of events that the author describes.
There are stunning revelations about the intrusive bullying of medical "specialists" who want to control hermaphrodites' lives, through surgery, rather than allowing these people to make their own choices when they grow up.
I found it difficult to plow through the extensive scientific and historical information early in the book, much of which is written as though it is common knowledge, but the parts that deal with Calliope's family, community, and sexuality are engrossing. I have a much broader view of human sexuality and the way we look at ourselves, each other, and the world after reading this story.
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ladymacbech, December 22, 2011 (view all comments by ladymacbech)
If you've read all the overviews and reviews and you still haven't picked up and read this book - too bad - you don't know what you're missing. Go ahead -open it, I dare you to put it down. I was really astonished as to the approach of the subject and the added angst of a young person growing up and finding that an amazing new conflict of judgement and choice has added a different twist to life between childhood and becoming a young adult. The main character, and eventually a loving family find a new normalcy. It would be really wonderful if more people could pass by snap judgements as to differences and approach each other with greater depth and acceptance.
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CT, January 11, 2010 (view all comments by CT)
As a member of 2 book clubs, I read many excellent books in the last decade. Middlesex, however, impressed me enough that I re-read the book on my own time. Middlesex is a sweeping overview of the twentieth century, beginning with the 1922 war between the Turks and Greeks, moving on to immigration to the United States, working for Henry Ford in Detroit, Prohibition, small business and the American Dream, the culture wars of the sixties, etc. The main character, however is the young man, Cal, born Calliope, an intersexed person believed to be a female by his naive parents. Author Jeffrey Eugenides treats his characters with respect, sensitivity and humor. The title, Middlesex, is a play on words, referring not only to Cal's sexual issues, but also to the name of the house and street where Cal's family lives in Grosse Point, Michigan. The book won many awards, including the Pulitizer Prize, Ambassador Book Award and the Great Lakes Book Award. Middlesex was also an Oprah Book Club Selection.
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Picador USA -
by Kirkus Reviews,
"Middlesex vibrates with wit....A virtuosic combination of elegy, sociohistorical study, and picaresque adventure: altogether irrestistable."
by Michiko Kakutani, The New York Times,
"[A]n uproarious epic, at once funny and sad, about misplaced identities and family secrets....Mr. Eugenides has a keen sociological eye for 20th-century American life."
by Jeff Turrentine, The Los Angeles Times,
"Middlesex isn't just a respectable sophomore effort; it's a towering achievement, and it can now be stated unequivocally that Eugenides' initial triumph wasn't a one-off or a fluke. He has emerged as the great American writer that many of us suspected him of being."
by Bethany Schneider, New York Newsday,
"It's a gas, a romp, the cat's pajamas....The convolutions of the novel's plot, its big gestures, its deftly handled threads of imagery and symbolism and its wealth of detail combine to produce a largely delightful read."
by Stewart O'Nan, Atlantic Monthly,
"[I]t's off proportionally, both section-to-section and overall, its two halves at odds, each interesting at times but neither truly satisfying, despite Eugenides's prodigious talent. Like Cal, it's damned by its own abundance, not quite sure what it wants to be." (read the entire Atlantic review)
by Jonathan Miles, Men's Journal,
"Here's your heads-up....Yes, it's that good....A novel of chance, family, sex, surgery, and America, it contains multitudes."
by The Boston Globe,
"A big, cheeky, splendid novel...it goes places few narrators would dare to tread...lyrical and fine."
by The New York Times,
"Part Tristram Shandy, part Ishmael, part Holden Caulfield, Cal is a wonderfully engaging narrator....A deeply affecting portrait of one family's tumultuous engagement with the American twentieth century."
"An epic....This feast of a novel is thrilling in the scope of its imagination and surprising in its tenderness."
by San Francisco Chronicle Book Review,
"Unprecedented, astounding....The most reliably American story there is: A son of immigrants finally finds love after growing up feeling like a freak."
The Pulitzer Prize-winning story of Calliope Stephanides and three generations of the Greek-American family who travel from a tiny village. Calliope is not like other girls and must 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.
"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 drivers 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 Pointe, 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.
Middlesex is the winner of the 2003 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction.
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