Jeffrey Eugenides and Benito Gomez Ibanez - Middlesex

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Dissenting Opinion Here - Middlesex Bored Me

Jun 4, 2006 (Updated Jun 4, 2006)
Review by  
Rated a Very Helpful Review

Pros:Historically interesting, unique narrator.

Cons:Not enough about the narrator's difficult life.

The Bottom Line: Popular book club selection that left me bored. The saga is interesting but the narrator left me wanting information about himself.


I always find it easier to write a review of a book I feel passionate about. If I love a book like crazy, the words jump from my fingertips. If I can’t stand a book, I find the words flow fairly easily as well. It’s a book like Middlesex that give me trouble. This is a book that leaves me flat.

I realize that I am once again in the minority regarding a popular and beloved book. Heck, who am I to dislike a book that has won a Pulitzer Prize? I simply didn’t love it and I didn’t hate it. I stand on the fence. And that fence surrounds the house on Middlesex Avenue.

THE BASICS

Middlesex was written by Jeffrey Eugenides. He is also the author of The Virgin Suicides. Published in 2002 by Picador, it won the Pulitzer Prize in fiction. It is a very popular book club selection and has been since its publication.

THE BOOK

I will start off by saying what this book is NOT. It is not the story of a freak show. It is not the story of a medical discovery, and it is not the story of a genetic anomaly, per se. It’s simply (and this is in the most simplistic way) a story that happens to be told by a person born as a hermaphrodite.

The storyteller is a person born of the union of a brother and a sister three generations before. They survive wartime in their home country of Greece and make passage to America and pass themselves off as strangers on a ship that fall in love and get married. They are believed to the point that they actually come to believe it themselves. And thus, they procreate… and luckily have children that do inherit the hermaphrodite mutation but instead, their NOT so lucky grandchild, Callie, does.

It is not medically discovered that Callie is a boy by birth until puberty. But alas, this is not the real story of Middlesex. The real story is couched between present day Cal and Cal’s tale of her own childhood. How she lived through her rollercoaster ride of emotions of childhood. How she has feelings for others that are inexplicable to her. How she realizes that she is not like other children; other girls, specifically. And how she doesn’t really fit it. The real story is an account of her family’s history. Callie’s story is really the story of her family and their triumphs and failures as immigrants in 20th century America. The story is about how her family tries to fit into Americana and how Callie tries to do the very same thing, in her body and mind and spirit.

Middlesex is written in a unique voice in both flashback and present day. At times, it is hard to tell where present day and past collide but for the most part, it is pretty clear that Callie is weaving the story of the past colliding with the present and ultimately, the future.

MY THOUGHTS

To end this review, I must be honest. I had completely different expectations of the book before reading it. I think that is why I was disappointed… it never panned out to be what I was thinking it would. I honestly thought it would be more about living life as a hermaphrodite, and its obstacles and oddities instead of a multi-generational saga of immigrants and their descendants. And the biggest letdown of all? Middlesex doesn’t refer to the median (or teetering) between the male sex and the female sex but rather the street they lived on in Michigan! That was a BIG blow to my expectations. My bad though, I guess, since you can’t judge a book by its cover, nor can you judge a book by its title.

So, I am impartial to Middlesex. I can’t understand why it was a Pulitzer Prize winning novel but then again, I did enjoy it on some levels. I enjoyed the historical accounts of wartime Greece and the emigration to the west. I enjoyed reading about old world generations colliding with present day modernisms. I enjoyed seeing how the Stephanides family makes it in America (and DOESN’T make it at times). But I didn’t enjoy this book as much as I hoped.

I hoped it would be more life changing for me. I hoped it would be more enthralling for me. Or deep. Or prophetic. Something. But it wasn’t. It was boring for the most part. Again, I’m sure this is the minority opinion, but to each his own.

*******************



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