Re-reading my favorites: Jeffrey Eugenides

I am in purge mode. It is in response to the time between New Year’s resolutions and spring house cleaning. One thing I have a lot of is books. Shelves and bags and boxes in every room. Well, not quite every room, but many rooms. Scattered among the books folks have given me to read—some of which I will, some of which are going into the give-away box without being read—are my favorite books. I have decided it is time to purge these shelves. I am re-reading all those favorites and I will blog about them one more time, ensuring that they are forever in my memory. I am passing them along to my daughter, who has decided she likes to read!
I’m starting with Jeffrey Eugneides. My shelf holds three of his books: The Marriage Plot and Middlesex and The Virgin Suicides.
The first time I read The Marriage Plot I loved it, but it is not until this second reading that I understand why. Eugenides takes me so deep into each character, particularly into their doubts. For example, when Mitchell, just graduated from university and bunked in Paris pulls out his favorite Hemingway, he realizes the depth of his choice in his current situation. At odds with the feminist hostess, he chose this book from his backpack–the one written by a misogynist. Eugenides then takes the reader spiraling down Mitchell’s train of thoughts, deeper and deeper. We feel his discomfort grow through his movements, we witness his moral confusion, we—in the best way—become Mitchell. Eugenides is able to take us on this journey with each of the very complex, very different characters in this book.
This story is about a group of newly graduated people. There are complex narratives about the classes they take. I had to look up the writers, and even the subjects of the classes to see if they were actual majors and writers. Yes, unheard of by me, but real in the rest of the world.
I can send this book on to the next reader knowing that by reading it twice—once for the virgin pleasure of the story and the second time for the art involved in the writing—I have fully appreciated the story.
The end was a surprise even though I had read the book before! Somehow I confused this with some other book in which a character goes to India. Lovely to be caught off guard.
Another favorite line–“he thought of his parents, those two planet-sized beings who orbited his entire existence.”
This is actually the THIRD time I have read Middlesex. I loved this book from the first time I ever cracked a page because it refers to a text book I had in college. Understanding the biology of gender is an important concept for budding therapists to learn. This story doesn’t disappoint as the reader is moved deep into understanding the characters. Calliope Stephanides and her Greek roots, her family, how genetics, behavior, and environmental factors all swirl together to create who we are.
The Virgin Suicides Eugenides does not disappoint in this novel of five sisters who escape a life of less-then-expectations. Each character comes alive and the underlying messages are abundant. I don’t want to spoil anything for readers, but once again, I decide that Eugenides had to have experienced what his characters experience. How he was five different women escapes me. I covet his skill and am doing some revising now in an effort to emulate his deep character methods.