Thursday, July 3, 2008

Middlesex - Book 1

--by Abby

Chapter by chapter seems really difficult for this book (many chapters, too compelling to stop to blog). As an alternative I'm going to do an entry for each book within the novel.

Book 1
One can't help but notice the emblem on the cover of Middlesex that reads: Winner of the Pulitzer Prize. It shows. The writing is fantastic. The narrative style is unique and interesting and really sucks you into the story by mixing the past and present and giving away what seems like too much information, but eventually you realize it isn't a mystery novel. You know how it ends. The thing that keeps you hooked is trying to understand how it comes to such an end. The psychology of the characters is fascinating.

(Spoilers in green)

The book opens with Cal (formerly Calliope) blatantly stating his mixed sex and mingling science, personal anguish and nostalgic, wistful tidbits about the family history. As a person completely defined by his genetics (in a more segregating way than most of us) Cal has studied his family and found all the coincidence, the parallels, the moments of fate that led to his birth as a girl.

The first momentous family story occurs as Cal is in the womb with his grandmother divining his sex with a spoon over his mother's belly. The story reverses back to Cal's highly scientific conception then rewinds back much further to the story of his grandmother as a young woman in the old country.

I am so impressed with the story of Desdemona and her little brother Lefty. From the first, you feel the oncoming incest, but you expect some horrible event, some violence, some mortifying guilty mistake. Instead I found myself falling for their confusing love story, a brother and sister in love, in denial. They are so innocent and young and alone in the world that you really can't judge or hate their forbidden romance, and so instead I was happy for them.

Later, when Desdemona and Lefty are living as man and wife, there is this dread that their children will betray them, punish them for not knowing better. But the children are fine (and then I realize that the kids have to be at least mostly healthy, because I know that their son is Cal's father. Silly me.) Anyway I mourn the loss of intimacy between the couple as Desdemona is consumed with guilt and Lefty with jealousy for his wife's attention.

New fears arise when Desdemona is forced to take a job and unwittingly becomes a silk-stress for the young church of the Nation of Islam (complete with fully functioning militant wing, even as the first Detroit church is in its infancy). And that is pretty much where the first book leaves off, though its interspersed with stories from Cal's adult life that inspire memories of his family's history.

I think one of things that really makes the story believable is the true history of the exodus of Greeks, the early Detroit auto manufacturers, the impact of the Depression. I find I'm picking up quite a bit of history in this story and I like it. I'm really excited to read more. Probably will finish over the long weekend.

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