I vacillated a lot on this one. I wanted to include some sort of big fat contemporary novel by an author who gets a lot of attention. At the same time, I didn’t want to include too many of these types of books because I wanted to leave room for some of the older and more obscure books I enjoy.
Other novels I considered: The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay, Atonement, Winter’s Tale, Bel Canto, Olive Kitteridge (really, a short story cycle), Animal Dreams (a bit older but Kingsolver is still very popular).
Eventually, Middlesex won out. Why?
Jeffrey Eugenides makes Detroit seem like a place full of wonder and magic. None of those other books do that. Also, he makes Callie/Cal, the protagonist, such a vivid and compelling character. With a transgender narrator, this book could easily have been a novel about gender “issues.” There’s nothing that irritates me more than a novel that’s trying to hit you over the head with “issues.”*
*unless it’s by Steinbeck, in which case the beautiful prose wins me over.