Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides

How do you review a book that you know is an instant favorite? How do you review a book that you can’t even fathom the writing process of? How do you do that and hope that it’ll live up to the experience of reading it. I don’t think you can do that successfully, honestly, but I’m going to try here. Ana has been trying to get me to read Middlesex for years. Literally. I tried reading it three years ago and it was just the wrong time for me. I know it was ME and not the book because it’s now hard for me to put into words how much I loved this book. The narrator of Middlesex is Cal, born Calliope. Yes, this is the journey of Cal transitioning to life as a male after being born with a genetic abnormality that caused him to be born intersex, but it’s much more than just Cal’s story. In fact, we don’t even meet Cal for the first time until halfway through the book. It’s the story of the Stephanides family. Middlesex is the story of two greek immigrants, brother and sister, who become husband and wife. It’s the story of old traditions vs. new transitionings. It’s the story of immigration, of love, of self-discovery. It’s a history of Detroit in the 1920’s moving through the 1970’s. And yes, it’s a study in gender and how exactly our gender defines us. GENDER not SEX. I couldn’t even fathom how Euginides wrote this book. It’s epic! All of the little details are there. The scope of the novel is huge. And yet the book remains so personal. I loved all of these characters so much. They won’t be leaving my mind any time soon. I fell in love with Cal from page one, but there are so many other amazing characters in this book. Desdomona. Oh how I loved her so much. She’s the beginning of what will eventually cause the genetic deformity once she marries her brother. She’s an amazing woman! Holding so heartily to the traditions of her homeland as she travels to Detroit as a stranger. Always a strong woman who has her weak moments at times. But a true matriarch. I was taken aback by my feelings towards the incestuous relationships in this novel. I found myself not being appalled by them in the least bit. Desdomona and Lefty loved each other. That was clear. They were not aware of the possibilities of genetic deformities being passed on. I still can’t really describe exactly why the relationship didn’t bother me. I think it’s Eugenides’ writing. Not that he made things appear to be one way in particular, but that he showed us the humanity and the love between these two. And showed me a family that I came to love so much. I listened to this book on audiobook and I have to say that I think all other audiobooks are forever ruined for me. Kristoffer Tabori was the narrator and he is STUNNING!! He brought the characters to life so well. Like I was amazed by Eugenides, I was also amazed by Tabori’s reading and performance abilities. Whichever way you choose to read this book, read it. I highly recommend the audio...it’s done wonderfully and is incredibly engaging...but of course for there to be great audio, there had to be a great book behind it. And this one indeed is.

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