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Book review: Middlesex

January 28, 2011
Middlesex was a confusing book for me because I didn’t know if I liked the book or not.

Usually when I put down a book of this scope there’s a certain “Wow” factor and I didn’t experience that with Middlesex. For me, while the story started out with a bang and picked up speed from there, the last quarter of the story, beginning with Calliope’s journey and continuing right though to what I felt was a rush to the end, began to feel contrived and out of synch with the first three-quarters of the book. As a result, rather than ending with that explosive “Wow”, the whole thing just sort of just fizzled out. Rather than not wanting to put the book down because I was hoping for more, I closed it, put it away and thought, “Okay, what’s next up?”

Middlesex is a big book that covers a lot of ground. It’s the story of three generations of an immigrant Greek family and one recessive gene that happens to manifest in the story’s narrator, Calliope Stephanides, a girl born in 1960 with ambiguous genitalia.

The book is a lot more than that simple sentence. Middlesex is also the story of war, persecution, the immigrant experience, Detroit, America, race relations, love, longing, isolation, acceptance and ultimately, fate. The book is also rich with metaphors that went over my head, but that more educated readers will probably pick up on.

The book is very well-written in language that is not only easy to read and entertaining, but complex and deep. The book is so well-written that more than once I wondered if this wasn’t really a true story rather than a fictional memoir. The historical events and personal experiences are wonderfully well-developed and the eccentric Stephanides family and the people who surround them are richly drawn, complex and interesting. Despite the fact that everything about Middlesex felt authentic to me and I knew these characters very well and could identify with some, I never felt close to any character and I never fell in love with any of them.

I give Middlesex a very high recommendation.

One Comment leave one →
  1. January 28, 2011 11:23 am

    Michael, When Oprah named this as a book club selection I ran out and purchased it. I could not get into it…I read about the first third and just quietly put it on the book shelf. I tried again about a year later…same thing. Maybe I’ll try reading it again and see what happens this time. I’m glad you enjoyed it.


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