Middlesex: A Novel (Oprah's Book Club) - book cover
  • Publisher : Picador; 1st edition
  • Published : 05 Jun 2002
  • Pages : 544
  • ISBN-10 : 0312427735
  • ISBN-13 : 9780312427733
  • Language : English

Middlesex: A Novel (Oprah's Book Club)

"I was born twice: first, as a baby girl, on a remarkably smogless Detroit day of January 1960; and then again, as a teenage boy, in an emergency room near Petoskey, Michigan, in August of l974. . . My birth certificate lists my name as Calliope Helen Stephanides. My most recent driver's license...records my first name simply as Cal."

So begins the breathtaking story of Calliope Stephanides and three generations of the Greek-American Stephanides family who travel from a tiny village overlooking Mount Olympus in Asia Minor to Prohibition-era Detroit, witnessing its glory days as the Motor City, and the race riots of l967, before they move out to the tree-lined streets of suburban Grosse Pointe, Michigan. To understand why Calliope is not like other girls, she has to uncover a guilty family secret and the astonishing genetic history that turns Callie into Cal, one of the most audacious and wondrous narrators in contemporary fiction. Lyrical and thrilling, Middlesex is an exhilarating reinvention of the American epic.

Middlesex is the winner of the 2003 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction.

Editorial Reviews

"Part Tristram Shandy, part Ishmael, part Holden Caulfield, Cal is a wonderfully engaging narrator. . . A deeply affecting portrait of one family's tumultuous engagement with the American twentieth century." ―The New York Times

"Expansive and radiantly generous. . . Deliriously American." ―The New York Times Book Review (cover review)

"A towering achievement. . . . [Eugenides] has emerged as the great American writer that many of us suspected him of being." ―Los Angeles Times Book Review (cover review)

"A big, cheeky, splendid novel. . . it goes places few narrators would dare to tread. . . lyrical and fine." ―The Boston Globe

"An epic. . . This feast of a novel is thrilling in the scope of its imagination and surprising in its tenderness." ―People

"Unprecedented, astounding. . . . The most reliably American story there is: A son of immigrants finally finds love after growing up feeling like a freak." ―San Francisco Chronicle Book Review

"Middlesex is about a hermaphrodite in the way that Thomas Wolfe's Look Homeward, Angel is about a teenage boy. . . A novel of chance, family, sex, surgery, and America, it contains multitudes." ―Men's Journal

"Wildly imaginative. . . frequently hilarious and touching." ―USA Today

Readers Top Reviews

steam_simonJanie ULu
A tedious and boring story that takes 400 pages to get to what was said in the opening sentence. Written by the protagonist narrator in the 1st person singular and plural, and in the present tense throughout, this approach was both irritating and confusing as the novel spans around 60 years, and flip-flops around in time and place. Particularly irritating are the little asides across time (e.g. …....and in the time it takes them to go upstairs we will return to………. followed by half a page of irrelevant ramblings (about the past or future written in the present tense). It may be literary (daaaarling!), but it is so pretentious. The core subject matter is complex but as a consequence of the literary style I couldn’t empathise with the narrator’s character who is struggling with his/her gender and sexuality.
While I enjoy the literary over the romantic fiction, sometimes the subject matter is more than a light-hearted beach read. This book is a categorical saga, but at its base a very unconventional saga. The author needs no criticism from me (the average reader who missed as many descriptive details as I caught). In recommending this book, I will not spoil the subject but I will caution you that an open mind is tantamount when trying to envision this story. My lone, true criticism would be that main characters are subjected to microscopic scrutiny in the pages and the depth of information is unrealistic where they exist in the story. Existential thinking gone to the extreme makes the ending somewhat anticlimactic as well. But I’m not claiming to have any right to judge, just saying that, for my time, it was not the ending I expected.
Middlesex is both a family saga and coming of age drama about how Calliope Stephanides is born into a larger than life Greek family with a long history of intermarriage. Amidst a backdrop of family secrets, complicated love stories, and genetic anomalies Calliope is born as an intersex individual who must figure out through a tumultuous adolescence how she wants to identify. Middlesex has been on my 'to read' list for many years and I can not believe it took me so long to get to such a good book. I am a Eugenides fan, having read some of his other books and this is one of the best I have read so far. Eugenides has always been very good at handling his characters with care but in Middlesex there is an added level of gentleness and sensitivity. Eugenides never passes judgment but rather lets the reader delve deeply into the motivations and rationale of each character so even if you do not understand why a decision was made you have an understanding of how a decision was made. I was also impressed by how funny the book was. Middlesex could have easily become very heavy and depressing but Eugenides manages to inject lots of laugh out loud moments throughout. I recommend this book to anyone who enjoys Eugenides' writing and family sagas.
I absolutely loved this book. It was recommended to me by a Greek friend who grew up in the Detroit area. Once I got through the first few chapters I could not put it down and now I see why they say its one of the books you must read before you die. The writing is amazing and just flows and Calliope's story kept me captivated. When I was finished I was disappointed in the ending because I wanted more and felt the author couldn't leave it there as I wanted to know so much more at the protagonist. But I realized that's the true sign of a good book, you don't want to let the characters go because you come so invested in them and their story. I would recommend this book to anyone and have already lent it out to a few folks.
mhs26Pat Flynn Steck
I really wanted to like this more than I did. Eugenides is a talented and intelligent writer, but I find him to be too dry for my tastes. I did power through the book though despite not enjoying most of it. The main problem I had with it is that I thought I was going to read a story about a person dealing with the fact that they were born a hermaphrodite (although not raised as such) and then struggling with their gender identity. When in fact I was reading a story about his family and what led to his creation which I found to be less interesting. So I guess I felt a little hoodwinked which perhaps is my fault for not doing my research. Essentially this is a story about a complicated family and what it was like to be Greek immigrants in America in the 1900's. There's an emphasis on racial tensions, discrimination, and different socioeconomic backgrounds. If you ever wanted to learn about the fall of Detroit, this book paints a vivid picture. In a way this was interesting and I learned a few things, but it wasn't the story I thought I was going to read and I found some of it kind of dull despite the scandalous nature of the family dynamic. I really didn't get into the story until the book focused on the narrator's life (which was pretty far into the book). This is the part I did find fascinating and I wish there had been more of that. Honestly, it felt like I read two different books (possibly 3). Granted it took me as long to read as if I had.