Friday, June 6, 2008

Middlesex - Jeffrey Eugenides

This book caught my eye for two reasons.
  1. 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.
  2. The story is set in Michigan, in Detroit.
Now, we lived in Dearborn, not Detroit, but there could have been some journalistic license going on - or maybe the family moved to Dearborn. At any rate, I didn't know that this book won a Pulitzer. I didn't know that this was the same author who wrote "The Virgin Suicides" (which I haven't read).

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


witchypoo said...

A book that you plan to re-read is all the recommendation I need. Thanks, Hot!

Claire B. said...

Ok, I'll promise right now to read Middlesex if you PROMISE to read "The Virgin Suicides." OK? OK.

Claire B. said...

I meant "Middlesex". Or Middlesex if that is preferable. I know how. I do!

Anonymous said...

Ooo I love those family epic novels as well..It looks familiar though, I wonder if I've either thought about getting it or read it a while back... Hmmm..Will put on my to reads

Anonymous Boxer said...

I'm reading this right now! Just started.

Have you thought of an online summer book club?