This book caught my eye for two reasons.
- When I was born, in 1963, my dad was serving in the Marine Corps. I lived with my grandparents, my aunt and uncle and my mom in Dearborn, Michigan. On Middlesex Street.
- The story is set in Michigan, in Detroit.
Well, the Middlesex referred to in this book is actually the name of the home that the Stephanides family moves to in Grosse Point. It also is in reference to the "middle sex" of the main character and narrator Calliope (Cal) Stephanides - a hermaphodite raised as a girl until the age of fourteen.
The story begins before Calliope is born - and follows Desdemona and Lefty Stephanides (Cal's grandparents) from their courtship and immigration to the United States in the 1920s through the mid 1970s.
I love family epics, so I was immediately swept away by the goings on. The characters here are wonderfully old-country Greeks from Turkey. They're the families that my own grandparents met. They had the children that my parents played with. Calliope was born in 1960 - only three years before me.
I remember hearing stories from my mother about moving to Detroit (from Pennsylvania) in the early 50s. Those stories are here. I remember the 1967 riots when my father, the cop, guarded the border between Detroit and Dearborn after the National Guard faltered and the 82nd Airborne was brought in. I know the Uniroyal tire and although I snorted a little at "the thready woods of Inkster" description, I was thrilled that Inkster, where we moved when I was four, where we lived until I was 13, was mentioned.
And yet, even without the setting, the tale that Jeffrey Eugenides tells is one of family secrets, self-awareness and the ties that bind us to our brothers and sisters, to our parents and grandparents, aunts and uncles.
I'll be re-reading this at some point.
Ree - The Hotfessional