by Jeffrey Eugenides
4.3 625


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Middlesex 4.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 625 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Very interesting read. On the surface, a story about a Greek-American hermaphrodite. Calliope/Cal narrates this tale of birth and rebirth.
Cal describes the family history and traces the journey of a rare, recessive gene over about 80 years. Cal's grandparents flee from their burning home in a small village in Turkey. Desdemona and Lefty, brother and sister, reinvent themselves during their journey to America and get married. When their son marries his cousin, two recessive genes collide. The result? Calliope, raised as a girl until an emergency room doctor notices something different about her. A visit to a famous specialist in New York sets Calliope on a completely new path and she is reborn as Cal.
Excellent character development and the intricate details of Cal's convoluted family history will keep readers turning pages. The normal adolescent angst and sexual exploration take on a whole new dimension, yet these issues are handled with grace, sensitivity, and, often, humor.
I did not expect to like this book, as it was on my "have to read" list, rather than the "want to read" list. Nevertheless, Cal's story grabbed me from the very first lines. I found this to be an excellent read.
Lisa_RR_H More than 1 year ago
I loved this novel. I picked up this fat tome with some trepidation, hearing it was inspired by a memoir discovered and promoted by Foucault by and about a hermaphrodite. I pictured some post-modern turgid avant-garde mess--like Delillo's Underworld, which had been on the same recommendation list. Instead I found what was promised in Underworld's blurbs was fulfilled in Middlesex--a Great American Novel--and a page-turner. Strangely, in the tale of a hermaphrodite I didn't find anything remotely freakish, but humanely universal, as if by having this protagonist of an ambiguous gender, Eugenides was able to embrace and bridge both (all?) genders. It's an ambitious work, taking in about 80 years from his Greek immigrant grandparents roots in Turkey, to his parents and childhood in Detroit, to his coming of age on the road from New York City to San Francisco and his current life at a diplomatic posting in Germany. It takes in massacres in Turkey, Ellis Island, the development of America's car culture, Prohibition with it's Speakeasies and bootlegging, The Great Depression, World War II, The Nation of Islam, Detroit race riots and Black/White relations, the sexual revolution, politics, religion--there doesn't seem anything missed, and yet nothing that feels rambling or contrived or caricatured. The voice is miraculous. Technically it's a first person narrative, but it breaks the bonds of that point of view into an expansive omniscience in telling its story of three generations: Book One dealing with his grandparents in Turkey and their immigration to Detroit; Book Two with the story of his grandparents and parents in Detroit before his birth; Book Three with his childhood and early adolescence; Book Four with his crisis of identity when doctors discover he's not the girl he was raised to be. Even in those two parts of the book during his own lifetime, the narration has that expansive, feel of third person omniscience, but with the intimacy of the first person voice. Eugenides makes me feel for his characters. I ached for Callie--and Cal--both. I worried for him. I hoped for him. I was propelled through the 500 pages not wanting to skip one paragraph and ended it sorry it was over and wanting to read this again sometime--and Eugenides other novel.
mL_i_B More than 1 year ago
“I was born twice: first, as a baby girl, on a remarkably smogless Detroit day in January 1960; and then again, as a teenage boy, in an emergency room near Petoskey, Michigan, in August of 1974.” Jeffrey Eugenides draws the reader into Middlesex in just the first sentence, and sets the scene for the purpose of the novel. Immediately, the reader is aware that the main character, later named Cal/Calliope, is a hermaphrodite. This is interesting because, BAM, within the book’s first few words the most shocking information about the story is already revealed. Eugenides could have decided to keep this information quiet and completely shock the reader in the middle of the novel when an emergency room technician discovers Cal’s embarrassing truth. However, due to other elements in the story, this strategy would not have been nearly as satisfying. Middlesex is a story of controversy, a story of history, a story of secrets, a story of coming of age. All of which are tied together beautifully.  The novel takes a historical, twisting path from Greece in the 1920’s to 1960’s Detroit and 1970’s San Francisco. The story begins by telling Cal’s Grandparents’ history. This occupies a good part of the novel; and I feel if the reader was unaware of Cal’s abnormalities they would be questioning why she was going into such detail with their life story. This is why revealing Cal’s predicament in the first sentence works so well. It is ALWAYS in the back of the reader’s mind. The reader is compelled to find out more about Cal’s sexuality, and why she is like the way she is. Watching her deal with her unique problems makes the novel a one of a kind, modern coming of age tale.  Cal also periodically interjects parts of her current life into the novel, which takes place in modern day Europe. Again, the fact that the reader knows of Cal’s troubles makes these parts understandable. However, these sections of the book did not click with me. At one point in the story Cal travels cross country (don’t worry, this does not give away much) and during this journey, I began to question her survival. But, because of the constant interjection of her current life, I knew that death was not an option. My imagination could not run wild. These pieces also called for a complete change of gears, which i was not fond of. One moment I was on a boat somewhere in the Atlantic Ocean in the 1920’s, and the next I was on a subway during the twentieth century. It would have added another element of surprise to the story if Cal’s current life was talked about at the end.  Nevertheless, the story contains many layers. This is satisfying because just as the story has different elements, so does the idea of hermaphroditism. Eugenides constantly adds in historical events, such as the fire in Smyrna, Turkey. He also adds even greek culture by paralleling Cal’s story with that of Greek myths. He tells a classic story of immigrants coming to America, while also revealing a modern story about a hermaphrodite. This contrast is written so beautifully. Which is why the story of an uncomfortable topic actually works well. The novel is not just about a Hermaphrodite. Middlesex is about history, about Greek culture, about family secrets, about adventures, about acceptance. 
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
One of the most stimulating and original books I have read. Truly, a modern-day epic. This is one of my favorite books of all time. Highly recommended.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Much better than most books on the Oprah Book Club Series so don't be discouraged if you are not a fan of the "list". This one is a don't miss.
Guest More than 1 year ago
While reading this book, I realized that what I really was doing was watching a movie. I could actually imagine the scenes playing out on the big screen through Eugenides¿ eccentric writing. The way he wrote Middlesex was appealing he described the setting, the characters, the moods in full detail using various, sometimes hilarious analogies along the way. I am also a big fan of narratives that overlook many generations in one hardcover it is a reminder to all of us that everyone 'our parents, grandparents, so on and so forth' have a story to tell. I enjoyed the plot for what it was worth, since there were times I was engaged enough that I could not put the book down. I was slightly disappointed about the way the book ended, however, because I felt like there was still an unexplained development from his confused youth at 14 to where he was now as a cautious adult male. Overall, maybe I just expected a tad bit more from a book that is inducted into Oprah's book club.
Alexandra Patterson More than 1 year ago
An absolute must in any library of any age, sex, or profession
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I am reading oprahs book club books and I was looking for something else but ended up with this. It didn't really appeal to me but I absolutely loved this book. I couldn't put it down. Everything about it was amazing and I was crying by the end. I recommend it to anyone.
Sammy_b_Jones More than 1 year ago
Middlesex contains a large array of imformation including the early years of Ford Motor Company in Detroit, the burning of Smyrna by Turkish troops in 1922, the nation and culture of Islam, as well the main topic -- hermaphroditism. Cal, the main character, on the first page tells that he was born and raised as a girl but was revealed as a teenager to be a boy, in genetic and chromosomal terms. His complications are due to a genetic mutation kept alive by incestuous marriages in a tiny village high on Mt. Olympus. Although, Cal does not believe that the scientific version of genetics and the ancient Greek notion of fate can explain his life or anyone else's for that matter. A common rags-to-riches theme is conveyed as the story tells the life of Cal's grandparents, then parents, then his own. America is shown as a place of opportunity and fortune and the title, Middlesex is accounted for the name of the street their mansion is on in Grosse Point, Michigan and it is also for Cal's own sexual conflicts. The book is eventful, unpredictable, eager to entertain, but missing the main character throughout the first 215 pages. And this happens when Cal's moment of transsexual truth comes when a hippie doctor decides to remove his testicles and treat him with hormones, give him surgically the nature that nurture has already dictated and make an honest woman of him. Soon after the procedure, he sets out for California on a journey that echoes closely his grandparents' flight from Smyrna. Intertwined throughout the novel, we get a taste of dry humor; for instance, Cal calls his brother "Chapter Eleven" and the "peep show" that occurs in San Francisco is wickedly humorous. The book is a symbol for anyone struggling with their sexuality and was well thought out and planned since it took Eugenides 10 years to write. The novel leads us to the future where particularities are what make us human and that takes precedence over the limitations of female and male as gender.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Calliope Stephanides undergoes birth and rebirth as she discovers that she is a hermaphrodite. Yes, this book is interesting. Yes, this book is about a hermaphrodite. But that isn't the one determining factor in making Middlesex memorable. Eugenides writes so beautifully that he instills a certain quality of life into his characters. Cal is so humane, charming enough so that you don't sympathize with him and instead continue reading to learn more about him; this fresh and imaginative character's flaw is just another stepping stone in his life. Even Desdemona and Lefty's incestuous relationship wrenches your heart, being so genuine yet sinful. Eugenides writes this book in a thoughtful perspective; it's filled with love and empty of regrets and resentment. Middlesex is certainly an unforgettable book, moving your soul as you stayed fixed to your seat reading this heartfelt tale.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I read this book a number of years ago.there is no other book this I read that compares to it. It is the story of a person from Michigan whose story goes back before they were even born. The author did a wonderful job at completely drawing one into the story and its characters. This is a must read for every one. It deals with taboo issues, American history...I don't want to say more and ruin the novel.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
One of the best books I've read that truly shows the main characters thoughts as an individual. I would definitely read it time and time again, and suggest it as a interesting read to friends.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is an unbelievable book. I dont want to reveal too much about the plot, but the transformation that the characters go through is incredible. This book will not only make you laugh and cry but will make you stop and think about how you truly feel. It is an absolute must read!!!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I've noticed a couple low reviews saying this book was dull and difficult to read. My experience was nothing of the sort, as I found the tale completely captivating and unexpected. I tore through the entire novel within a matter of a couple days. My grandmother loaned it to my mother who then gave it to me, so three generations of readers recommend it to others.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Great story - this offers a glimpse of American history while raising poignant thoughts about what being intersexed means.
Bippy1dog More than 1 year ago
Middelsex has a beautiful use of language and depicts the dichotomy of telling ones own story by including the historical element of the lives that came before and how it influenced. I did find a few areas that read a bit slow and at times and awkward; however, I think that has more to do with my discomfort with the incestual aspect.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I have not read a book so far this year that comes close to the beautifully descriptive pages of this book. Far more than understanding characters,i actually found myself sympathizing and living their lives through these pages. An absolute joy to read.....thank you for sharing your story and further educating our world....
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Middlesex is an extremely well written novel based on gender confusion and the fascinating recount of the history of a family. This book kept me reading during my every free moment, even when I had the opportunity to read one or just a few pages. This is a great book which any reader will have difficulties putting down for a moment. But one thing for sure is that I will start looking for more books like this.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I read the virgin suicides first and fell in love. So I had high standards for this novel and found those standards met
ecm319 More than 1 year ago
After ready a few trashy books, it was such a relief to read something so incredibly well written. If you don't like disturbing stories, this book probably isn't for you. But the language & voice is fantastic, and I was captivated the whole time. The book does go through a lot of the family's history, so if you are impatient and just want to get to the end, relax. It's really worth reading. Be patient, and enjoy it!
Missmandie805 More than 1 year ago
Couldnt put it down
Melissa Murphy More than 1 year ago
I could not put this book down. I really enjoyed the characters, the story, the places, really just everything about this book.
Zarina Kokkovas More than 1 year ago
This is by far one of the best books I've had the pleasure of reading. Eugenides descriptive and in depth prose along with a complete history lesson will entertain and educate you. You will love the characters and gain compassion amd understanding for human differences.
TiBookChatter More than 1 year ago
"I raise one fist (male typically) and begin to beat on the walls of my eggshell until it cracks. Then, slippery as yolk, I dive headfirst into the world"(211). Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides is about Cal Stephanides. Cal is a hermaphrodite and it's through his narration that we learn about 5-alpha-reductase deficiency and how it affected his development. Cal begins his story in the present day and then takes us back to the beginning, where his grandparents, Lefty and Desdemona make a decision that will forever change his life. I hesitate to go into too much detail as there is so much to be discovered in this book, and those discoveries should be made by you, at your own pace. What I can say, is that Middlesex blew me away. It's a complex, meaty type of read but the best kind of read.one told with humor and a definite voice. It's epic in scope but remarkably readable. The themes of identity, re-birth, transformation, race relations and nature vs. nurture are balanced out with humor and characters that breathe the same air we do. These themes speak to everyone, which is probably why Middlesex won the Pulitzer for fiction in 2003. I read this novel for my Contemporary Lit class and it was well-received by everyone. Even the non-readers in the class had something to say about this book and although I finished it weeks ago, I am still re-reading passages. It's definitely one of my faves for 2010. If this novel escaped your radar when it first came out, I urge you to pick it up now.
TheJoyOfNooking More than 1 year ago
This is the first book I have read by Jeffrey Eugenides, and I was riveted! This story spans three generations of Greek immigrants with a very interesting family history. An open mind will enhance the reader's experience of this book. I had not done any research or read anything about this book before reading it, so when I finished and turned it over I was shocked to see "fiction" on the back cover. The author completely duped me; the story was written so well from a personal perspective, I thought it was a true story! I highly recommend this book.