Tuesday, February 1, 2011

MIDDLESEX by Jeffrey Eugenides (2003)

So, I'll be the first to admit it. I'm really awful at starting things and finishing them. And I'm trying to not let that happen here, folks. That's why, upon the challenge of a friend last week, I am reviving my abandoned blog.

Here goes.

Middlesex is the story of Calliope Stephanides, a hermaphrodite born of Greek descent in Detroit. Cal is living in present day but he (formally known as she) is telling the story of his lineage starting with his grandparents' exodus from Greece during World War I.

His grandparents, Lefty and Desdemona, immigrate to Detroit at the height of its economic boom. Lefty and Desdemona move in with a cousin, Lina, and her husband, learn English and settle into their new American lives. They get jobs, they have children.

The kicker? Lefty and Desdemona are brother and sister. Then their son marries his first cousin once removed.

Yup, you read it right. The Stephanides family is screwed up. The twisted thing here being that Lefty and Desdemona fled Greece when the Turks were burning their city and country to the ground. They left everything they knew behind, including their brother/sister relationship. They got married on the boat to Ellis Island. They told no one except for their cousin, Lina, with whom they moved in. She had her own dirty secret to keep.

I have not finished the book, so I can't tell you how it ends yet. But I can tell you this book did not start off so well in my opinion. My mom bought and read it before me and told me she thought it was hilarious. It did seem incredibly boring to me at the beginning. But it has won me over. Cal, who narrates the story, does so seamlessly and flawlessly. The language he uses is so beautiful, I have to stop every couple of pages to get a pen and underline similes and metaphors.

Cal's voice is so littered with good-natured sarcasm sometimes it's hard to tell if he is bitter about his situation or just thinks his grandparents are crazy. I've come to love Lefty, Desdemona, Lina, Milton, Tessie, and most of all, Cal.

I can't wait to finish Middlesex.