Although Eugenides is an extremely talented descriptive writer, he needs work on plot structure. The first three quarters of the book seemed to be building up to a satisfying climax, with many interesting family dynamics at work. Then, the last quarter of the book flops. Eugenides completely sidesteps what could have been a very interesting conclusion, giving the reader insight into Cal's life as an adult, Milton's difficulty accepting the new Cal, and the family secrets finally coming to light. Instead, Eugenides seemed to run out of steam, and the last quarter of the book is insipidly inconsistent with the rest of the story. I hate to see talented writers blow what could have been a great finish.
I wasn't a huge fan of the book, I thought it was slow for most of the first half and glossed over a lot of the interesting parts of the second half. But our book club got a lot of in-depth discussion out of it so it was definitely worth the read!
More than just the memoir of a 41 year old hemaphrodite, Middlesex is his family's history, focusing on his grandparents, a brother and sister who married, passing on a gene that determined Calliope Stephanides fate. The story goes back to their native Greece and the civil strife that led the grandparents to America, where they settled in Detroit, whose own strife, racial riots in the 1960s, would help determine the family's fate. Callie grows up amidst all of it, a happy go lucky girl early in life who doesn't develop the way her friends do at adolesence, which is when things get interesting. The family goes to New York to see the world's foremost gender research doctor, who suggests hormones and minor surgery to restore Callie's feminity. But Callie calls him a liar and takes off, heading West to SF where she lives for awhile, displaying herself in a porn shop. In the end is a family reunion, the high point being a conversation with her grandmother, in her 80s and nearly gone, but lucid enough to admit the truth about her past, which sheds light on Cal's present. A fascinating and impressive book.
I am actually not finished with the audiobook version of Middlesex but I wanted to comment on the narrator. He's actually pretty painful to listen to. His voice is so low and husky, it's hard to hear in the car. Also, when he does a woman's voice you can't help but picture a man in drag. When he does the voices of the Greek-Americans in Detroit he makes them sound ...(imagine Mel Brooks reading this part). And the Greek pronunciation isn't terrible but he's still anglicizing the Greek (a greek delta is pronounced like "th" in "them"). I pay so much attention to the voice that its hard to listen to the words!