Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
This is an interesting book, it is actually two stories that blend together to make one long fascinating multi generational family drama. From the incestuous grandparents, through the post WWII parents building a mid 20th century nuclear family, to Cal, born as an intersex (hermaphrodite) and raised as girl, this story is captivating on many levels. The central character is supposed to Cal, but he really is not, he is just one character among a cast of equally interesting characters.
The story starts with Desdemona and Lefty, a brother and sister couple escaping post WWI Turkey, to remake themselves as a married couple in America. The Desdemona and Lefty relationship is an uncomfortable one, the author tried to build an epic love story here, but there is a definite ick factor here. Their story is not really about the oddity of the relationship or really even the relationship itself, but rather it is about transformations and making a new life for ones self.
This transformation and building of a new life, parallels Cal's own story, upon the discovery of Cal's condition, she runs away and starts a new life as a man. There is even a bit of an ick factor, while Cal is a teenage runway he becomes a performer in burlesque show where his genitals are displayed for the entertainment of paying customers. Interspersed throughout the book is the story of a middle aged Cal meeting a woman who excepts him for who he is, this part of the story is very short and told in single paragraphs throughout the book.
In between Cal and his grandparents is the story of Milton and Tessie, Cal's parents, who are also cousins. Their story is not so much about transformation, but more about what life was like for ethnic immigrants and their children in the mid 20th century as they build a life together and have children. Their lives fall apart a couple of times, but always they seem to bounce back, stronger than before.
Over all, really good book, strong characters, interesting story lines built with strong writing. I liked the way the author faded from one story to another, with little to no transition. In one paragraph you will be reading about Lefty's gambling problem in the 1960's and in the next reading about Cal spending time with a women in the early 2000's. The transitions are smooth and a couple of times I did not even realize they had happened, it just felt like the natural flow of the story.
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