Middlesex (Discussion)

Truth be told, when I selected this book, I was a little worried. I’ve probably started and put down Middlesex five times over the past ten years, never getting further than a chapter or two. However, I spent about two weeks trying to make my selection for the book club, and Middlesex kept popping into my mind. Either a friend was reading it, I overheard a conversation about it, or the final tipping point, it fell off the shelf, barely missing my head. I took it as a sign I should probably just read the darn thing and decided to commit, and here we are a month later.

I have to just come right out and say that I LOVE THIS BOOK. It’s so funny to me that it took nearly a decade to finally read it, but I think in a way I’m glad it did. Maybe the timing had to be right…or my perspective had to be just right…or maybe I just put too much thought into things. Haha. But really, I absolutely devoured the book; the intricate story lines chronicling generations, the characters who peeled away more of themselves chapter after chapter, the descriptions of the mundane that Eugenides somehow made magical. Reading this book was an amazing experience. 

And I think that for many people who pick up this novel, they too will think of it more as an experience than as just reading a book. As with anything, I’m sure some won’t like it, but if you do manage to fall in between the pages and get lost for a while, you’ll probably come out a little bit different than you were when you started. And isn’t that the purpose of a good book? To get lost, then find bits of yourself changed on your way out? I know for me, this book did exactly that.

So let’s begin. I feel a little nervous trying to simplify this book into bullet points– I really think I could talk about it for days– but in the spirit of conciseness, I’m going to limit it to just six or seven ideas. I’ll number each discussion point (some of these just thoughts, some questions), so if you’d like to number any of your corresponding comments, that would be great. Or if you just feel like writing your thoughts freestyle, that’s awesome too. I can’t wait to hear what you think. And for those who haven’t yet finished the book, be aware that there are spoilers below.

1) First, when you turned the final page, what were your first thoughts? Did you love the book? Did you feel drained or invigorated? Did you feel satisfied by the ending? What character did you love the most?

2) Let’s talk about the writing. The first thing that struck me was the narration style. This was what threw me off the first few times I tried to read the book. It begins before Calliope’s birth, and from there comes to the present, to the past again, and so on and so forth. At first this was off-putting to me. But as I read, it was like all the little puzzle pieces Eugenides gives us– a piece here, a piece there, something that might resemble a piece way back there– they all started to move towards one another, making sense of a seemingly confusing start. It was beautifully epic, and I was surprised by how well it all came together. So I ask you– did the narration style bother you? Did you enjoy the back and forth? For me, I feel like because it was such a long book (500+ pages), it was a welcome shift. I enjoyed having so much background and history (I can’t help but think of the immense research that went into writing this), and I loved seeing how it played out as we flipped back to the future.

3) Do you see yourself in Calliope or his journey at all? I feel like although some might not initially see any way they could relate to this character, that almost every single person can indeed relate in some way. For me, it was in that sometimes painful, curious, stumbling coming of age/coming into your own sexuality. From my point of view– someone whose gender identity matches the gender assigned at birth– the whole teenage journey was already bumpy enough. It’s very hard for me to imagine how difficult it must have been for Cal, someone whose gender identity did not match the one assigned. But I think whoever you are, there are similarities to be found in that awkward, universal experience of becoming who you will be. There are so many layers to it that are touched upon in the book– sexuality, friendship, parent/child relationships, puberty…and so I would love to know what part of Cal you related to most.

4) It was interesting to finish the book and look back at all of the relationships between words and symbols– Middlesex as the title and the street Calliope lived on, and really, being in the middle of his own “sex.” The motif of “middle” was prevalent throughout the novel, along with the theme of duality– one foot in and one foot out shown through cultures and time periods, relationships, and decisions. The silk worms– weaving their silk through the entire story; the Mulberry tree and its stages; Chapter 11 and his part in the family’s financial ruin/bankruptcy…but then also giving Cal the opportunity to wipe the slate clean and start over as his brother. When you think of your own life, do you see any symbols like this– any recurring themes or running motifs? If you were to write the story of your life, can you step back and see any constants, any ideas that have had a place throughout your story?

5) Did you have a favorite passage (or passages) from the book? I dog-eared my copy like crazy, underlining and highlighting, but I think my very favorite quote is this:

“Emotions, in my experience, aren’t covered by single words. I don’t believe in “sadness,” “joy,” or “regret.” Maybe the best proof that the language is patriarchal is that it oversimplifies feeling. I’d like to have at my disposal complicated hybrid emotions, Germanic train-car constructions like, say, “the happiness that attends disaster.” Or: “the disappointment of sleeping with one’s fantasy.” I’d like to show how “intimations of mortality brought on by aging family members” connects with “the hatred of mirrors that begins in middle age.” I’d like to have a word for “the sadness inspired by failing restaurants” as well as for “the excitement of getting a room with a minibar.” I’ve never had the right words to describe my life, and now that I’ve entered my story, I need them more than ever. ”  

 6) And then of course there’s the discussion of Dr. Luce. I’ve looked through some of the study guide that goes along with the book and had to stop and think about the question, “Was Dr. Luce the villain?” From my point of view, yes and no. I’m not sure if he was necessarily villainous as he was unethical. It was interesting to read from his perspective and imagine what he felt. Was he doing what he really felt was best for Cal, or was he doing what he felt was best for everyone else/society? The idea of surgeries like these taking place, either at birth or afterward, made me so upset. How terrible to have someone make a decision like that for you and to grow up never knowing the difference, but perhaps feeling different without knowing why. When I was looking through answers to this question, some readers also brought up Father Mike as a possible villain. For me, he definitely isn’t the villain either. So then is there one? Could the villain be more of an idea working against Cal? Society or society’s idea of “normal”? Old world medicine or time? What do you think?

7) And finally, a very broad question– what did you learn from Middlesex? I could go on about how introspective this book made me– thinking about my own adolescence, the sexual experiences I had, trying to put myself in totally different shoes and viewing my preteen and teenage years through that lens, but I’ll stop here and just say that yes, I definitely learned something. It also made me think back to when I had our first son, Henry. I posted something about finding out his gender via an anatomy scan, and one reader commented telling me that sex and gender did not necessarily go hand in hand. I was finding out the sex, not the gender. I didn’t know this prior to that comment, but I was grateful for that education. And so this novel reminds me of that. And other things too– about how so often we live in our own little world, blind to people who might be different than us, and how compassion and tolerance and choosing to learn about unknown things, rather than be scared of unknown things (or people or ideas) is paramount.

Thank you guys so much for reading this book with me this month, and thank you to Emma and Elsie for having me! As a former high school English teacher, writing out these discussion points has brought back many great memories, although I really would have loved to go on and on about so much more. I feel like I barely scratched the surface, especially when talking about Calliope’s family tree and all of the history preceding his birth. I can’t wait to chat more with you in the comments below though, and hopefully open up some additional avenues of thought too. xoxo. Dani (Come hang with me on Instagram!)                                                         

  • I love this book, glad to be reminded of it today through your article!
    I never commented here before, but I feel like it now because to me the villain is clearly the division of people into two genders (and even sexes) at all! I used to work the slow tuesday evenings in the little bar of a LGBT social club and some people started coming frequently to talk and toss heavy thoughts around. The ones I remember the most, are the very young who did not match the sexe they wer born with at all. The thing they where struggling the most with: even if they would do everything possible to change their apperance – they would never reach their goal. There is no petit girl getting the apperance of a quarterback. A petit girl could make cool guy. But he will be petit. The voice of a boy that allready broke will be the broken voice of a girl. It always struck me as sad and unfair. These pictures of what is “manly” and “feminine”, they are the true villain! And funny: to you “Middlesex” meant beeing in the middle fo ones sex, to me it meant beeing in the middle inbetween sexes! Anyway, loved your post!

  • I read Middlesex some years ago. The thing that I most liked about it was the history of Detroit. I was born in Detroit and moved to a suburb when I was 12. I hardly knew any of the modern history of Detroit, but so many things fell into place when I read the book. Two things in particular – race and religion. I knew that labour was called up from the South, but I didn’t know that black people were segregated and had to live in particular areas. It was the beginning of the problems Detroit has with racial issues and the motor industry (the backbone of Detroit’s economy) has a lot of answer for in that respect.

  • I absolutely LOVED this book. Definitely Eugenides best work. Cal is a very dynamic narrator and the way that the story spans decades and generations is brilliant. Truly an epic story. And very Ovidian. As someone who has studied mythology, I enjoyed all the comparisons and allusions to myth most especially Ovid’s Metamorphosis, these made the story seem more legendary and relatable. Cal was most definitely an epic hero. We see him grow up, something happens where he has to come to terms with his own identity, he goes into the underworld, and then returns changed but triumphant.
    Also as a native of the Metro-Detroit area, I really enjoyed the descriptions of the city and its troubled history. Very accurate and really hit home for me. My favorite passages from this novel are many but my favorite was towards the end about Detroit: Grow up in Detroit, and you understand the way of all things. Early on, you are put on close relations with entropy.”

  • Valerie-

    Me too…total “wow” after finishing it! Thanks for commenting. 🙂


  • SD,

    It’s so awesome that you were able to read the book and find such a deep relationship to it. I was talking to Hank about it actually, that before this book (and before meeting Hank) I may have met an intersexual and not have been open to dating them…but after reading this I understand now. That’s a pretty beautiful thing that the book can do that for people.

    Love to you!

  • Hey Claudia!

    Remember when Cal says that it took only so long for his brother to run the family business into the ground? I made the connection then, and then went online and saw others had too! But it’s just an idea, maybe we’re reaching! 😉 But to reach even more, perhaps it’s also symbolism for his brother allowing Cal to wipe the slate and start again as his brother, getting rid of everything in the past…kind of like declaring bankruptcy does. What do you think?


  • I read this book right after I read The Virgin Suicides (another fantastic read by Eugenides) about ten years ago and I remember it took me a lot longer than The Virgin Suicides. That’s not to say that I didn’t enjoy this book, because it’s incredible. I just remember focusing on all of the little details, themes, motifs, and the like mostly because I was still in school and analyzing like crazy. I’ve gotta say that if you enjoyed this, try The Virgin Suicides, even if you’ve already seen the Sofia Coppola movie. It’s a GREAT adaptation, but the way Eugenides writes breathes a whole new life into the story.

  • So glad you decided to do a review on this book. I read this book a long while back. The synopsis at the back of the book caught my attention. I loved the book. 🙂 The writing was good and I did feel like the character build was pretty good. I think my final reaction once I was done with the book was “Wow”.

  • I read this book when I was in high school. It was hard initially but once I got hooked, there was no putting it down. I just had to know what happened to Calliope.

    This book prepared me for my current relationship. My partner is an intersexual and the gender he’s born with (or assigned) doesn’t match the one he relates to. It helped me understand what he has gone through: the challenges he faced, the stigma, the confusion. I think I’d accept him at a much slower pace had I not read this book. 🙂

  • Sorry Dani, still don’t get why? Please share what conclusion did you come up with, him being called chapter eleven?

    • I’m so glad you brought this up because I had not connected it until you did. To answer your question about chapter 11, “chapter 11” is the name of a kind of bankruptcy in American law.

  • Awesome, thank you for the rec! 🙂 I’ll have to check it out. <3

  • I read it last year and i reallly enjoied it. And after that i read “la trama del matrimonio” (i don’t know the tutte in english): a book so different but very good too.

  • Hi Slanelle!

    Thanks for sharing that. I also felt the same way with this book AND with Lolita. Both are such beautiful pieces of writing.

  • Hi Emma!

    Loved, loved your comment here. Especially this: “Thinking about it now, this could be seen as another metaphor running through the book: the pressure on people to conform to a rigid system imposed from outside, be that gender normativity or the cliques and peer pressure of Calliope’s teenage years, or the socio-economic pressures felt by her parents.”

    You seriously hit the nail right on the head with that. So smart and so true. Thank you for sharing and giving me something else to think about. Is it too soon to reread it? 😉


  • Hi Emily! Thanks for leaving such a thoughtful comment. I know what you mean- imagine finding out that everything you thought all along wasn’t right at all?! Crazy.


  • Claudia,

    Thanks for your comment. I felt the same way about the brother/sister relationship…and I found it so interesting that by the end of it, it was no big deal in my mind when looking back at the story. Very crazy to me that the author was able to make that seem so “normal” in the context of things. But I get it, it was a different time and a different world. Shocking still, but in the scope of the book it does make sense.

    The Chapter 11 thing only came to me when I reread the end. I didn’t realize it either, and once it clicked it was a big OH moment!


  • Oh I bet! So neat that you had that whole side of the book to relate to. Did you (or your Mom and Aunt) find it to be pretty realistic?

  • Hi Shanna,

    Thanks for chiming in! I fully see where you’re coming from, but I think for someone like me, who hasn’t ever really been exposed to learning about that part of history, he was a complicated character! Certainly not as much as most of the others, but still worth discussing, especially when thinking about his motivation and execution. For me, he kind of represented society as whole- wanting Cal to fit into this neat little box so it’s easier on everyone- and that was a huge part of the story, in my opinion.

    Thanks so much for your comment. 🙂


  • Hi Tily!

    Okay so I have read NONE of those books. I am officially adding all of them to my ever-growing “to-read” list. Thank you so much!

  • Katie thank you for that insight! That’s such an interesting point- the omniscient narrator. It was a trip to be able to see all and know all over the course of the story, and through all of those generations. The more I think about his writing, the more I realize that like you, I’ve also never found anyone who writes like him. The Marriage Plot is on my list, and I can’t wait to read it.

    Thanks so much. 🙂

  • Helen,

    I’m so happy you were able to get into the book. Like you, I find it hard to find time to read, because when I have downtime I most often want to sleep too! But this book totally transfixed me, and I found myself bringing it in my bag wherever I went, sneaking paragraphs and words whenever I could. SO fun.


  • I read this a few years ago at the same time as my mom and her aunt. It was interesting, being a Greek American family and the view points each of the three generations took on the story!

  • I don’t think Dr. Luce is very complicated at all. He is definitely not a villain OR unethical. It was the ’70s! This was a very common surgical procedure at the time (and still is today in many countries). He handled everything the way a doctor of his time would have handled it – I’m not really sure why people would villainize him?

  • Hi!

    I read this book a while ago..and it has stuck with me… the writing is not the ordinary narration you encounter every day ( I do read a lot…so I can spot patterns here and there  )… but this is a book that stays with you.
    The story, the struggle and the different points of view all make the story so much more real… and that is what makes it fascinating.

    Can I propose a few books for the club? I have read them all…and they would qualify here- they’re all great!

    John Fowles- The collector
    Ken Follett- Pillars of the Earth
    Ildefonso Falcones- Catedral del mar ( not sure what is the exact English translation)
    Ildefonso Falcones- The Hand of Fatima
    And lastly- Ken Follet’s The century trilogy – I am starting the 3rd book- is is by far one of the best historical novels I have ever read.

    Think about it! 🙂 Thanks!

  • Hi!

    I’ve read this book a few years ago, after having LOVED the Virgin Suicides. I was so not disappointed with Middlesex, which is, I think, even more porwerful, more beautiful, and extremely well written! I really don’t remember everything, but I remember feeling the same thing than when reading Lolita, by Nabakov : it was worrying and off putting for me to be carried away by a forbidden and very wrong love story. Okay, that’s it, I just wanted to share that 🙂 Have a nice day!

  • For me, Middlesex is almost a perfect book. The writing style is, as others mentioned, conversational, but also incredibly rich and lyrical. The passage which always stands out for me is the section describing Lefty’s work in the Ford factory: how the rhythm of the language makes a poetry out of the assembly line, and shows how the assembly line system incorporated human beings into the machine, forcing them to function as automatons.

    Thinking about it now, this could be seen as another metaphor running through the book: the pressure on people to conform to a rigid system imposed from outside, be that gender normativity or the cliques and peer pressure of Calliope’s teenage years, or the socio-economic pressures felt by her parents.

    I’m fascinated by gender and sexuality and I think this book is a wonderfully accessible doorway to these issues. It’s a very literary book and probably not everyone’s cup of tea – I’m guessing people could be turned off both by the writing style and the subject matter – but for me it is a densely beautiful, exciting, fun and funny book!

  • I’m a genetic counsellor and voracious reader- so Middlesex combined two of my favourite things. I’ve always been interested in intersex disorders and counselling around these and I know the historical atrocities that occurred to intersex people exposed to the medical profession. At the end of the day it’s a beautiful, lyrical, moving novel about humanity and the greys involved with everything from social norms (incest), gender and culture. I adore it.

  • I heard Eugenides speak at Columbia last spring, and during the Q&A he answered a question about Middlesex that provided some perspective on the narration.

    Someone in the audience asked about his inspiration for writing Middlesex, and what sparked his interest in the topic of hermaphroditism. His first response was “I’m not going to take my pants off.” Then he went on to talk about how he was interested in the idea of an omniscient narrator. He explained that because Calliope has experienced both genders, his perspective is broader, and it’s almost as if he knows a bit more than the other characters can. I reread the book after hearing this, and it kind of contextualized how Calliope had this intergenerational perspective.

    I’ve never found someone who writes like Eugenides – getting into the mindset and point of view of so many different characters. If you liked Middlesex, I would highly recommend The Virgin Suicides or The Marriage Plot! They all have their own vibe, but these two are less dense. You won’t be able to put The Marriage Plot down once you start.

  • Since becoming a mom it has been difficult for me to get back into reading-so hard to find the time, but mostly it’s hard to unwind and be able to concentrate on a book after the kids are in bed. I usually just want to sleep myself! 🙂 Once I did find the time I started with some easy reading because I couldn’t concentrate on anything with heft. I hesitated a bit picking up this book because I didn’t think I would be able to concentrate on something that wasn’t Jojo Moyes (don’t get me wrong, I do enjoy her), but it felt good to read some literature again! Thank you for choosing it!

  • I really loved reading this book all over again. The writing flows from page to page so effortlessly. As far as how I related to Calliope,I figured we could all related to her teenage years. Those yearnings for our impending womanhood that just never seemed to show up fast enough. I was a late bloomer and totally became obsessed about when I would be able to use a tampon or buy a training bra. Although I eventually started puberty as a woman, I couldn’t quite imagine what I would’ve done if I discovered that I was never really a woman to begin with. At least not in the traditional sense.

    Overall, the characters were the most interesting people. Cal especially. When you catch up to him as an adult male. He’s still unsure of himself even though he’s a pretty terrific individual who is smart and personable.If only he had more confidence in himself and didn’t sell himself short when it came to female love interests.

  • I loved this book, this was my favourite choice after “the lowland” as I am so interested in books that talk about past generations in families, I believe it is a big part of how it makes us who we are.

    Desdemona was my favourite character, I guess that as my parents are migrants and Can relate closely and made me laugh in several occasions, especially when choosing her grave as this is very common in our culture as well.
    I do have to say I found her relationship with her brother disturbing at the beggining. However as I kept reading understood their choice.

    I agree with the style of writing, it took me a while to get into the story as it was very confusing and characters were just being introduced.I’m so glad that I kept going.
    Although till now, can someone explain why cal called her brother chapter eleven, I definitely missed something.

    Great choice….

  • And for the first time too! 🙂 I am definitely going to be passing it along to anyone who will read it, too! <3

  • Oh, I feel you. This one was at the top…then got buried. It’s a miracle I ever read it, but I’m so grateful I did. I hope you read it soon! <3

  • I haven’t actually read any of the books on this list but since it is goodreads and their section about LGBTTTIQ(…) community is quite well organised you could maybe give these a try 🙂 https://www.goodreads.com/list/show/35477.Hermaphrodite_Intersex_Main_Characters
    The first time I ever learned about intersex people was when I watched the movie XXY. I must have been 13 at the time – while I don’t remember much of it, just the fact that I do remember it probably shows what an impression it had on me.

  • Diana!

    I almost texted you while I was writing this discussion to get your input, but the post was already SO long and I knew if we got talking about it it would become a novel itself! haha. Anyway, can you believe I’ve never read The Virgin Suicides?! That’s next on my to-read list.

    I also get what you mean about that part with Desdemona. I felt like so many times Eugenides explained various emotions in that kind of way- where you realize you never thought about it like that yourself, and it’s part shocking, part totally enlightening. That man has got a way with words…

    Thanks for weighing in, my friend!


  • Hey Katie!

    So happy you enjoyed this book too. Like you, I will probably always recommend this book to anyone who is looking for something to read. I’ve honestly never read anything like it, and now I’m curious to read the author’s other books and see if I love them just as much.

    Thanks for sharing your insight!


  • I definitely need to read this book. It has been on my list for years. It’s insane to think at how high my book pile is getting…
    The Accidental Mama

  • I also have to agree that at the end I was like…is that it? But then I did some research and saw the author has been working on a follow-up book. I didn’t have time to read too much about it but I am hoping it continues the story. I would love that.

    I liked what you said about the book having a lot to offer for anyone who is open to learning. So, so true. And like you said, it reminded me that everyone has a story we would generally have no idea about. Maybe (probably) even our own family.

    Thanks so much, JC!


  • I love this book and when I finished it, I was crushed. I really was. I totally agree with you it comes to the book changing you. Eugenides did it with Virgin Suicides, and this one so heartbreakingly good.

    The quote I loved most was when Desdemona’s husband died “Desdemona felt a strange emotion rising inside her. It spread in the space between her panic and grief. It was like a gas inflating her. Soon her eyes snapped open and she recognized the emotion: it was happiness. Tears were running down her face, she was already berating God for taking her husband from her, but on the other side of the proper emotions was an altogether improper relief. The worst had happened. This was it: the worst thing. For the first in in her life my grandmother had nothing to worry about”

    I think it’s such an inappropriate but human way to describe grief. I personally didn’t experience this but as time goes on, I can relate to it.

  • It’s been years since I read this book, but it remains the very first book I recommend to people. It’s an incredible story told in such an incredible way. It was a topic I’d certainly never been confronted with or even given much thought to; if you’d told me how closely I (or anyone) would identify with aspects of this character, I’m not sure I would have believed you. But that it did challenged my perspective, my preconceived notions…and ultimately, I feel, really helped broadened my horizons as much as any book ever has. How you described it—as an experience—is exactly right.

  • I didn’t know about the follow-up! How interesting, but I would also imagine it to be an incredibly difficult job to follow-up on such a great story and intertwined plot …

    2) It’s German 🙂 – but I love to read in English to improve my vocabulary. And I prefer reading a book in the original language. Although translations can be great, I always feel that they also make the book a little bit different.

    5) I agree! Dr. Phil is also a really interesting character. He always seems so be “stuck” in the old world and represents all the old values and stories. And the story about his family is also so sad – the way Jeffrey Eugenides describes it makes you really live through it and see it from his son’s view who at first doesn’t really understand what is happening … It makes the terrible things feel so close.

    Oh, and tea and chatting about the book sounds lovely! I think it’s so great that we can talk about this book and discuss our thoughts no matter where we are living 🙂

  • Cat, that’s amazing. I feel like so much of the time (and I can see this with my parents’ generation most often) a lot of things that maybe weren’t as “mainstream” as they are now are made more accessible through books and movies. Even for me, who considers themselves a very open-minded person, Middlesex opened my eyes to some fear I might have even had towards something I didn’t understand, and made me see things in a new light.

  • I read this book last year and loved it. You are absolutely right that there is so much more to it than just being a good book. 1) I was slightly disappointed in the lack luster ending after all of the excitement in the middle. 2)I loved the writing style, it was more conversational like the narrator was telling you their life story in a coffee shop. I found it very relateble. 3) Aside from typical teenage feelings I never really related to calliope on any deep level. I think the issue of gender creates a separation for me. 6) This book has a lot to offer anyone who is open to learning. The most obvious one is that everyone has a story that many of us will never know. Many of us, have stories that go back through the centuries to give us personality and genetic traits that affect us and our families daily. Maybe I’m partial to this theme, because I’m a redhead, and that shaped my personality hugely.

  • While the subject is much different from Middlesex, I think you should check out The Last Time I Wore a Dress. It’s a memoir dealing with mental illness and LGBT issues.

  • Michelle- you have to read this one…it’s SO good!

    Let us know what you think. 🙂


  • “It altered the way i saw the world around me, which to me is the defining mark of great literature.”

    Yes. I can’t tell you how much I relate to this remark. I felt different when I finished the book- and I too saw things differently. I can only think of a handful of books that have done this for me, and Middlesex is absolutely one of them. Thanks for sharing, April! <3


  • I’m wracking my brain to try and think of one, Dani, and I honestly can’t (and I’m a voracious reader!). I think that speaks to the significance of Middlesex.

    On a separate note, my stepmom grew up in a conservative ranching community and never understood homosexuality. She moved to the Bay Area when she married my dad, and her view on the topic was totally transformed when she watched Brokeback Mountain. How incredible is that, when a book or movie can profoundly change the way you look at a group of people?


  • Erin,

    You are the 2nd person to mention that book this month! I will have to check it out.

    Thanks so much-

  • Right?! I’m pretty much in major AWE of this writer that he was able to tell so many stories as one. Amazing. I can’t wait to read his other books.


  • 1. I did the SAME thing. I’m almost irritated at myself that I went so fast. I also have a weird happy of skipping to the end once I’m close to the end because I can’t take the suspense! haha. I did some research and saw that the author is writing a follow up! I can’t wait to read it.

    2. What is your native language?

    3. I agree with everything you shared- especially the interpersonal relations part. It’s interesting to me to go back to my own adolescence and look at the way I interacted with others, roles friends played, first boyfriends, etc.

    5. I also loved the description in that part. One of the most beautiful paragraphs to me was the part where Dr. Phil’s child is killed when he opens the door. SO not beautiful in what actually happens but the way he describes it really got me. Amazing.

    6. “Dr. Luce also represents the belief of the society that there must be a solution to every problem, and you just have to do something, to make everything better.” This is SUCH a good point. That seemed to be such a factor in everyone’s decision making…except Cal’s. And he went off, not knowing what was next…and perhaps that was the greatest rebellion of all!

    Thank you SO much for sharing your thoughts. I wish we could grab some tea and chat about the book! 🙂


  • My favorite thing about Middlesex is how it sheds light on the intersex community. It’s such a common phenomenon, yet we almost never talk or hear about it. Any time we “normalize” the unfamiliar and help people relate deeply to something they might have thought was strange (intersexuality, homosexuality, etc.), I think it’s a good thing! Thanks for choosing such a thought-provoking novel 🙂


  • Recommendation for a future month: Lost & Found, by Brooke Davis. I just finished this, and thought it was beautiful.

  • Hi Cat!

    I couldn’t agree more. Do you have any other recommendations for novels along these lines? This was the first I’ve read of something like this and I’d love to check out some more. Thanks for commenting. 🙂


  • I loved Middlesex when I read it quite a few years ago – such a good book! Glad people are still reading it now!

  • I read this years ago, but I LOVED it! Particularly how the story was woven through present day, the Detroit riots, the burning of Smyrna, all of it. It was truly an epic story.

  • I really really enjoyed reading Middlesex. Thanks for choosing the book, as I hadn’t heard about it before and might not have picked it up in a bookstore or library 🙂

    And thank you for the nice discussion points. I never joined a book club before, so they really help me to think about the book in a new way. So, looking at your questions:

    1) I think I just flew through the last pages, as I was really curious how the story would end. I liked the ending – I thought that it was very clever, that the ending of the story in Cal’s past was very clear and described with many details, while in regards to Cal’s present life the book doesn’t reveal everything and secrets do remain. I think that’s also a nice view of looking at the character. As Cal is sharing so many details of his life, I think it’s nice that his future is not so observable for the reader and there seems to be more privacy for the main character.
    And I think I really liked Desdemona as character. I like her story and think that you could understand her perspective and interestingly also could kind of relate to her view of the world.

    2) I agree that the writing style is confusing, especially at the beginning. As English is not my mother tongue, I also had to look up some words and it took some time to dive into the story. For me it was also a long book and it took time to read it. But it was totally worth it 🙂

    3) Eugenides really touches so many layers in describing Calliope’s development. I enjoyed reading most about the difficulties of finding your personal identity. Because that process is actually never completed, and the deep and intriguing questions that Eugenides asks in his story were an impulse (at least for me) to also think about personality / behavior / interpersonal relations in my own life …

    5) Haha, that’s my favorite part of the book, too. Eugenides is so right about emotions, it’s incredible. But I also liked the part where Milton learns that he has to go to war. And time seems to thicken somehow and his thoughts are described in detail. That really made me shiver.

    6) Dr. Luce is a difficult character in my opinion. I agree, it seems that he wants to do what he believes is best for Calliope. But I also think that he didn’t ask Calliope what she really wanted. He never really educated her on the situation or options and their alternatives. So I think his behavior is unethical, because he never tries to change perspective. But maybe Dr. Luce also represents the belief of the society that there must be a solution to every problem, and you just have to do something, to make everything better (I think Milton says something like this in the story as well) … And I think you need all 500+ pages of the book to understand, how difficult the situation really is and that you can not just implement a one size fits all solution …
    I don’t think there is a classical villain in the story. I think the book does a great job in showing how behavior is actually very strongly depending on external influences …

    7) I also definitely learned something. About the interest community, history, personal development, tolerance, and so on … I really enjoyed reading the book and I am excited about the discussion here!

  • I think I am going to have to start joining your book club! I’ve read #girlboss based on the comments and your raving reviews. And now you have me intrigued with this one 🙂
    My first ever book club, yay!!

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