Jeffrey Eugenides called his second novel, Middlesex, “a comic epic” (of his Greek-American cultural heritage). Yet he went far beyond–and deeper than–ethnic humor, outshining popular movies like My Big Fat Greek Wedding, which by comparison seem little more than cultural stereotypes. His novel relies upon social and historical research, a traditional Aristotelian plot with tragic tension and an interesting reversal of fortune, and characterizations that are plausible, endearing and humorous (inspired in part by his family members).
Middlesex is a comic epic with a modern twist, since Cal Stephanides, the narrator of the novel, could be described as a (biological) mystery wrapped in an enigma. His case, similar to Herculine Barbin’s (popularized by the cultural critic Michel Foucault), is strange enough to be found in the pages of Dr. Peter Luce’s study, “Gender Identity in 5-Alpha-Reductase Pseudohermaphrodites.” With wit and flavor, Cal recounts the story of his life, beginning with his immigrant grandparents, Desdemona and Lefty, moving on to his parents, and the unexpected twists and turns of his own gender transformations. Middlesex is a sharp contemporary novel written with a gentle, Chehovian touch, which offers an endearing and unforgettable picture of three generations of an American family.
Claudia Moscovici, literaturesalon