Middlesex is the story of the Stephanides family told from the perspective of Cal Stephanides, once Callie Stephanides. From the hills of Smyrna in the late 1910s to the suburbs of Detroit in the 1970s, we find out how every move made by the members of this family have formed (literally) the life of Calliope Stephanides, a hermaphrodite with the chromosomal makeup of a boy, but who has been raised as a girl. This family is every bit normal, but just enough off to create a very special circumstance. His father joined the military, revived his father’s business and moved to the suburbs. His brother started as an inquisitive experimenter, moved to college, and went through a hippie phase. The story doesn’t just follow one family, it also follows Detroit’s growth and changes into a major industrial city. And lastly, the story touches upon that American Dream and how it affects one particular family.
I loved this book! Eugenides leaves no stone unturned in his narrative. Every secret, every possibility, and every feeling is displayed. While the story is told from Cal’s perspective, there’s also an omnipresent narration. We know what Cal’s grandmother felt as she left Greece, what her father felt as he started basic training, and what her mother felt as she pined for a daughter. I appreciated such a complete story. Each character had good moments and bad moments and you could sympathize with most of them. There’s a sensitive human aspect to the story that makes it feel much more like real life, and like the family that lives next door. It’s not at all mocking or silly, but true. I think this is a tremendous read, and I highly recommend it.