Reading Buddies Discussion: Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides

Middlesex has been sitting on my shelf for years – so many years that it’s managed to sit on many iterations of my shelves throughout several moves, including across the country and halfway back. A friend of mine read and loved this book, so much so that he gave me his copy in the middle of grad school, when too many other obligations prevented me from picking it up. When Erin from Erin Reads mentioned they’d be reading it as the October Reading Buddies selection, I knew I had to join in. But, as usual, I’m a little behind the post schedule – 2 days to be exact. I wanted to get a little further into the novel before discussing my initial impressions.

I can see now why everyone has such a giant literary crush on Eugenides – his writing is rich with imagery and humor, vibrant characters, colorful settings and cultures, and narratives that sweep across generations and geography, histories and subjects with the ease of clear water flowing down a mountain stream. The beauty of the story is that although you have an idea of where it is ultimately headed, you have absolutely no idea of what will befall the characters along the way. I somehow came into this novel knowing only the very rudimentary bits of what it was about – a transgender character finding her and then himself. That’s all I knew. I didn’t know it started generations back, and covered the Turkish destruction of Smyna and the Greek immigrant experience…in Detroit of all cities.

Like Erin, I had the print version of the book, as mentioned, but also had the audio from the library, which is what I’ve gone with. And the audiobook is phenomenal. The narrator, Kristoffer Tabori, has a voice and tone to perfectly match those of Eugenides’ language. The characters come alive through his enthusiastic narration – sometimes I pick up the print book to read along (being a little to visual when it comes to reading to completely adapt), but most of the time the audio is almost preferable. (I am happy to find that I read much faster than I speak, though.) Best thing about audio is that you can read while driving, while doing errands, while cleaning the house, doing laundry, working out, even with a headache that would normally prevent much reading. Another good thing: pronunciation. My inner voice no doubt would butchered the pronunciation of many of the names and Greek words. I’d have been pronouncing Smyrna incorrectly in my head the entire time had I only picked up the print version of the book.

I am only about 30% through the book, and can’t wait to see what’s ahead. It seems like others are enjoying it as well! I’m wondering if I’ll be able to put off reading The Marriage Plot until the hype dies down or not.