The First Time I Read . . . Welcome Elaine L. Orr

Welcome, Elaine, and thanks for giving us a peek at the novel Middlesex, winner of the Pulitzer Prize for fiction in 2003, and of your latest Jolie Gentil mystery, Ground to a Halt.
The first time I read Jeffrey Eugenides I was totally taken with Middlesex, the story of Calliope (later Cal). While not a mystery, there is much to uncover. 

The story and characters are complex, and Eugenides packs a lot into a sentence. Cal's mother comes into focus with, "From the tender age of twelve, my mother had been unable to start her day without the aid of at least two cups of immoderately strong, tar-black, unsweetened coffee, a taste for which she had picked up from the tugboat captains and zooty bachelors who had filled the boarding house where she had grown up." 
Add to this dry humor, shown in an exchange between Cal's parents. Tessie asks, "What does Uncle Pete know about having babies?"

"He read this particular article in Scientific American," Milton said. And to bolster his case, "He's a subscriber."

The novel moves Cal and family from Prohibition-era Detroit through the city's unsettling late 1960s, then to Grosse Point. Michigan, where they live on a street aptly named Middlesex. Cal has a brother, referred to only as "Chapter Eleven." You can guess his impact on the family business. It has been twenty years since I read it, but every time I get to that chapter in a book, I think of Middlesex. 
"I was born twice: first, as a baby girl, on a remarkably smogless Detroit day of January 1960; and then again, as a teenage boy, in an emergency room near Petoskey, Michigan, in August of l974. . . My birth certificate lists my name as Calliope Helen Stephanides. My most recent driver's license...records my first name simply as Cal." 
I have also read The Marriage Plot. It has the same depth of character development and detailed narrative, though it was less spell binding for me. Ironically, this was because the college students' passions for literary figures are integral to the story. The gripping family and American history, and of course Calliope's transition to Cal, make Middlesex my favorite.

I recommend reading Middlesex as an audiobook. The aura will linger.

Elaine L. Orr is the Amazon bestselling author of Trouble on the Doorstep and other books in the Jolie Gentil cozy mystery series, which has eight books and a prequel. Behind the Walls was a finalist for the 2014 Chanticleer Murder and Mayhem Awards. She also writes plays and novellas. Biding Time was one of five finalists in the National Press Club's first fiction contest, in 1993. Elaine conducts presentations on electronic publishing and other writing-related topics. Nonfiction includes Words to Write By: Getting Your Thoughts on Paper. Elaine grew up in Maryland and moved to the Midwest in 1994.

Ground to a Halt

Finding the Java Jolt Coffee shop untended was unnerving for Jolie Gentil. Seeing its owner stumble toward her after being shot was more unsettling. Then his shooter goes for Jolie and the brain-injured Iraq War vet Jolie keeps an eye on. She needs to keep her friends safe, but doesn't want to antagonize her best bud (and how boyfriend) Scoobie. He's more into live and let live, and Jolie doesn't want their romance to grind to a halt. How much is Jolie willing to risk, and what will it cost her?