Another Oprah club book, I try hard to put thought into my book choices, but this one was picked solely on the basis of an interesting title. Middlesex is also another of Oprah’s choices, though I didn’t realize that until after I’d purchased it. I read it over the course of a few days, as it was interesting enough to keep my attention, but light enough to pause when I needed to take care of the kids.
This audiobook is certainly *not* appropriate to listen to with the kids around.
The book begins with Cal, the narrator, talking about his family history. His grandmother Desdamona had predicted that his parents would have a son when they had been attempting to have a daughter. He frequently returns from recalling the past to discussing the current events, weaving a story of his life that left me enthralled.
After introducing his incredibly superstitious grandmother, he almost immediately reveals the cause of his genetic variation. Eugenides takes the reader back to a small Greek village in the 1920′s. Two orphaned siblings (Desdemona and Eleutherios, later referred to as Lefty) immigrate to the United States, deciding to disguise themselves as a young couple. Married by the ship’s captain, they arrive in the United States, determined to forget that they had ever been related.
When they arrive, they go to Detroit to live with their cousin Lina and her husband Jimmy. Lefty and Jimmy go into business together and Lina and Desdamona become pregnant, coincidentally on the same night. As Desdamona learns more about the potential risks from incestuous relationships, she becomes more and more afraid of the consequences of her choices. When her son Milton is born, however, he is healthy.
Later on, despite Desdamona’s warnings, Lina’s daughter “Tessie” and Milton marry. Milton and Tessie go on to have two children, a biological male and an intersexed child named Calliope who is originally believed to be girl. At fourteen, Calliope begins to explore her sexuality. After she is in a car accident, she learns that she is not actually female.
Faced with the possibility of sex reassignment surgery, she runs away from home and transitions to Cal, her new male identity. Eventually, Cal is forced to return to her family. When she does, her grandmother confronts her and tells her the truth about Lefty being her brother. I found the characters interesting enough to want to know more about, despite them not being incredibly detailed. Jeffrey Eugenides’ writing made it easy to follow the plot of the book, despite multiple jumps in time. Overall, a very enjoyable read.
Kristoffer Tabori struggles to sound anything at all like a young girl during the early years of Cal’s life when it is thought he is female. Of course it would be a very difficult call for any male narrator.