This literary novel (544 pages) was published in June of 2007 by Picador. The book takes you to deep into the human heart. David read Middlesex and loved it; it wouldn't be on our site if he didn't recommend it.
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Middlesex will draw you in with the story of a character who is intersex but raised as a girl — and then drop you into a layered and very satisfying multi-generational family drama. The action begins in a small Greek village and proceeds to the outskirts of 1960s Detroit.
The book is bracketed by the life of Calliope Stephanies, a student at a girls’ school in Grosse Pointe, Michigan. She tells the story of her realization that she’s very much not like the other girls. As her tale unfolds, she talks about science, genetics, and her family history. We learn about her grandparents fleeing Greece, their trials in 1920s Detroit, the race riots of 1967, and, finally, Calliope’s unusually awkward teenage years.
Our heroine Callie eventually becomes our hero, the man known as Cal.
Author Jeffery Eugenides’ prose is clear and engaging, brimming with life and insight. And though the story is all told from Cal’s perspective, he has something like omniscience about his family, as if his imagination is so powerful — and he can see his family’s past so clearly — it becomes the truth. For him and for us.
Cal is a very agreeable narrator — funny and bright and insightful. When the book ends, you’ll be sad that your time with Cal has come to a close.
This book is a multi-generational family saga, a coming-of-age story. It’s both funny and tragic, a romance novel and a social novel. It’s a powerful exploration of what it’s like to be in the complicated middle: between male and female, Greek and American, past and present —and what it means to be fluid between those things.
In 2003, Middlesex won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction and was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award, the International Dublin Literary Award, and France’s Prix Médicis. FWIW, it also won our hearts.
Emotions, in my experience, aren’t covered by single words. I don’t believe in ‘sadness,’ ‘joy,’ or ‘regret.’ Maybe the best proof that the language is patriarchal is that it oversimplifies feeling. I’d like to have at my disposal complicated hybrid emotions, Germanic train-car constructions like, say, ‘the happiness that attends disaster.’ Or: ‘the disappointment of sleeping with one’s fantasy.’ I’d like to show how ‘intimations of mortality brought on by aging family members’ connects with ‘the hatred of mirrors that begins in middle age.’ I’d like to have a word for ‘the sadness inspired by failing restaurants’ as well as for ‘the excitement of getting a room with a minibar.’ I’ve never had the right words to describe my life, and now that I’ve entered my story, I need them more than ever. — Jeffrey Eugenides
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