Thursday, August 22, 2013

Middlesex - no wonder it won the Pulitzer and the Audie

b Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides, read by Kristoffer Taboli: The problem with listening to a really good audio book is that for a while, every other audiobook you listen to will make you kind of sad because of its wasted potential.  Middlesex is the story of three generations of a family starting in a Greek-occupied area of Turkey and moving to Detroit in the 20s and then all the way up through maybe the 90s in Germany.  It follows three generations and covers some history of the Greeks in Turkey and a lot of the history of Detroit.  It made the recent problems with Detroit declaring bankruptcy hit home a lot more to me. 

I knew absolutely nothing about the city of Detroit, even though it was rather close to where I grew up.  Eugenides grew up there, and he brought the city's history to life brilliantly.  (All of that stuff about the beginnings of Islam in America were just fascinating.  This book covers a ton of unexpected ground in an interesting way.) 

The story is epic but deeply personal.  It dragged in the third quarter for me (I find stories of blooming sexuality uninteresting, even when they are complicated with hermaphroditism), but I really liked the smooth weaving of the timelines together by the omniscient narrator.  I also liked Cal's narrative voice in general.  The balance of humorous foreshadowing (always referring to Cal's brother as "Chapter 11") and down-played pathos was well done.  I found myself sympathetic to characters I didn't think I would. 

This is just a great ride, especially when performed by an amazing, 110%-engaged narrator who brings each character to life separately and pulls you in.  (Especially great if you only paid two dollars for it.)  I don't know if the physical book-reading experience would be comparable, so if you have long drives, give this audiobook a try.  Just don't listen to any other audiobooks for a couple of months.  Maybe then you'll be able to avoid the feeling of being let down by lesser audiobook narrators. : )

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