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Middlesex

November 21, 2007

A Novel (Oprah's Book Club)I’ve read a handful of Oprah’s book club selection over the past few years. Some of them have really stuck with me as great reads, namely East of Eden by John Steinbeck and The Good Earth by Pearl S. Buck. Other books I would rather forget (I found She’s Come Undone to be overrated, A Million Little Pieces unbelievable (go figure) and I only made it halfway through One Hundred Years of Solitude).

When I picked up Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides a few years ago, it didn’t yet have the little “Oprah’s book club” sticker on the cover, but the emblem “winner of the pulitzer prize” instead. All I knew is that the subject matter sounded interesting to me. I was really anxious to read it after my book club picked Middlesex as our November book. 

The story is told by the narrator Cal, who is a forty something Intersex (which is the politically correct term for the now considered offensive word hermaphrodite). Cal travels back in time three generations to Turkey, where his grandparents make a terrible decision that alters Cal’s genetics. From Turkey all the way to Detroit, Cal’s story is played out in an interesting, often sad and sometimes humorous way. The opening line gives you a glimpse of what is to come in this 500+ page book: 

“I was born twice: first, as a baby girl, on a remarkably smogless Detroit day in January of 1960; and then again, as a teenage boy, in an emergency room near Petoskey, Michigan, in August of 1974.”

The author spent nine years writing Cal’s amazing story. The book is incredibly detailed, leaving no stone unturned, which may turn some people off (including one woman in my book club who felt the details were overdone). I found that each of these details were an integral part of the overall story and added to my enjoyable reading experience. The only issue I had with the book was a sub-plot towards the end of the book involving the death of Cal’s father Milton. Each of the book club members agreed that we couldn’t quite figure out where it fit within the story.

In the end, I found Middlesex to be a really interesting and enjoyable read and would recommend it.

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7 Comments leave one →
  1. November 21, 2007 2:34 pm

    Hmmm. I don’t get the feeling that you loved it. Maybe you “appreciated it” rather than loved it? That’s kind of how it was for me.

    I read this a few months ago, so my memories aren’t perfect (bear with me!) I liked Middlesex, I could appreciate the fact that it was well written, parts of it were engrossing, but overall I could not say I loved it.

    I’m from Detroit originally, so I enjoyed reading about my hometown area. I got upset with Cal’s doctor about all the testing and with Cal’s parents who decided what to do about his/her ‘situation’ without consulting him/her. The part in California with Cal living as a boy but being grossly taken advantage of made me sick (the underwater shows) and I thought, why doesn’t he just go home.. his parents love him and he must know they’re frantic. I enjoyed the part about Cal’s growing up years most of all. I thought the storyline about the dad and the brother in law was stupid and unnecessary. I thought the book was too long and could’ve been better had it been less detailed.

    Overall I’d give it maybe 3.5 stars on a scale of 1-5.

  2. November 22, 2007 4:05 am

    i love many of oprah’s books too. haven’t read this one, but it sounds interesting.

  3. November 24, 2007 12:42 pm

    I thought this was a terrific read and gave it a 4.5/5 rating. If you missed my review, go here.

  4. November 28, 2007 3:42 pm

    Read this a few years ago – it was definitely different and interesting. Didn’t LOVE it, but enjoyed it.

  5. December 10, 2007 12:44 pm

    I read MIDDLESEX twice last year and positively loved it.

    NPR’s This American Life just did a big segment last weekend on gender and sex changesl. It was fascinating!

  6. December 10, 2007 1:40 pm

    I’ve had this book for awhile and keep meaning to read it. Now that it’s an Oprah book, I’ll probably wait until the buzz dies down again before taking a crack at it.

  7. December 20, 2007 5:07 pm

    I enjoyed it and was amazed at the richness of detail!

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