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  Library Journal Review

The author of The Virgin Suicides is known for his daring, so it's hardly surprising that "Middlesex" refers not to a town but a state of being: Calliope, a student at an exclusive girls school during the 1970s, discovers that she is a hermaphrodite. (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

  Booklist Review

In his second novel, the author of The Virgin Suicides (1993) once again proves himself to be a wildly imaginative writer, this time penning a coming-of-age tale, ranging from the 1920s in Asia Minor to the present in Berlin, about a hermaphrodite. Perhaps what is most surprising about Eugenides' offbeat but engrossing book is how he establishes, seemingly effortlessly, the credibility of his narrator: "I was born twice: first, as a baby girl, on a remarkably smogless Detroit day in January of 1960; and then again, as a teenage boy, in an emergency room near Petoskey, Michigan." So starts Cal's remarkably detailed odyssey, which began when his grandparents, who were siblings, married and vowed to keep the true nature of their relationship a secret; however, their deception comes back to haunt them in the form of their grandchild. With a sure yet light-handed touch, Eugenides skillfully bends our notions of gender as we realize, along with Cal, that although he has been raised as a girl, he is more comfortable as a boy. Although at times the novel reads like a medical text, it is also likely to hold readers in thrall with its affecting characterization of a brave and lonely soul and its vivid depiction of exactly what it means to be both male and female. --Joanne Wilkinson

  Kirkus Review

The verbal energy and narrative range of Saul Bellow's early fiction (say, The Adventures of Augie March) are born again in this dazzling second novel, long-awaited since The Virgin Suicides (1993). Narrator Calliope "Cal" Stephanides is a Greek-American hermaphrodite who eventually becomes a 41-year-old male living in Germany and working for the US State Department. But prior to that-thanks to Cal's assumed ability to "enter the heads" of his relatives and forebears-we're treated to a comic saga that begins in 1922 in the Middle Eastern port city of Smyrna, where Cal's paternal grandparents, Desdemona and Eleutherios ("Lefty"), fall into incestuous love, escape the Turkish siege of their homeland by finagling passage to America (en route to Detroit, where they have family), then, concocting new identities, marry while aboard ship. Eugenides produces one brilliant set piece after another as Desdemona grapples with lifelong guilt; Lefty works briefly at a Henry Ford factory, then prospers as a restaurateur; their son Milton, following ominously in Lefty's footsteps, marries his second cousin Tessie, becomes a hot-dog mogul, and fathers the medical miracle that is Calliope. The story is studded with superbly observed characters, including prematurely senile Dr. Philobosian, who examines, and fails to notice, Calliope's remarkable sexual configuration; Lefty's Cagney-like brother-in-law, bootlegger-entrepreneur Jimmy Zizmo; and the parade of comrades, presumptive lovers, and confidants encountered by Cal as she/he grows into gender confusion and away from suburban comfort in Grosse Pointe, survives the chaos of the late 1960s, and lights out for the territory of-what else?-San Francisco, finally making a kind of peace with her/his divided nature. Middlesex vibrates with wit, and shapes its outrageous premise (which perhaps owes a partial debt to Alan Friedman's unjustly forgotten 1972 novel, Hermaphrodeity) into a beguiling panorama of the century in which America itself struggled to come to terms with its motley heritage and patchwork character. A virtuosic combination of elegy, sociohistorical study, and picaresque adventure: altogether irresistible. Author tour
Summary
<p> "I was born twice: first, as a baby girl, on a remarkably smogless Detroit day of January 1960; and then again, as a teenage boy, in an emergency room near Petoskey, Michigan, in August of l974. . . My birth certificate lists my name as Calliope Helen Stephanides. My most recent driver's license...records my first name simply as Cal." </p> <p>So begins the breathtaking story of Calliope Stephanides and three generations of the Greek-American Stephanides family who travel from a tiny village overlooking Mount Olympus in Asia Minor to Prohibition-era Detroit, witnessing its glory days as the Motor City, and the race riots of l967, before they move out to the tree-lined streets of suburban Grosse Pointe, Michigan. To understand why Calliope is not like other girls, she has to uncover a guilty family secret and the astonishing genetic history that turns Callie into Cal, one of the most audacious and wondrous narrators in contemporary fiction. Lyrical and thrilling, Middlesex is an exhilarating reinvention of the American epic.</p> <p> Middlesex is the winner of the 2003 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction.</p>
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