"Middlesex" by Jeffrey Eugenides catches the reader's immediate attention with the very first sentence, when it is stated that the protagonist Cal Staphanides was born twice, once as a girl and the second time as a boy.
The occasional use of the Greek language in the book also points to the problem of the protagonist's search for identity, which, centrally, has to do with gender (
The narrator of "Middlesex" is a first person narrator, Cal Stephanides himself. An extremely interesting narrator since the story is told from the perspective of the protagonist, but the reader gets the whole palette of stories and of all characters. The first person narrator becomes omniscient like a god who can see what his ancestors were feeling during wars and everything else concerning events and thoughts of all characters.
The book is very interesting, pleasant, entertaining and easy to read. Unfortunately, it is also very time consuming because of its excessive length. But once the readers reach the hardly expected end of the story, they realize that the first long chapters of the book, finally leading up to protagonist's story, are necessary to grasp the origins as well as the consequences of Cal's hermaphrodity.
A bit more on the characters of the story:
"Middlesex" is a title that certainly does not suggest a usual, everyday story with usual, everyday characters. The title "Middlesex" already suggests some kind of a sexual oddity, as is the case in the book. Every character in the story has at least one quite strange sexual characteristic, starting with the protagonist's grandparents, who basically are the start and the cause of
Tracing back the cause or causes of the protagonist Cal Stephanides' hermaphrodity, the reader first becomes shocked by the grandparent's odd attraction to each other, namely that of incest.
The fact that they are closely related is always stuck in the back of their minds until they sail across the ocean amongst the American crowds to which their family relation and their past are unknown. They create their own reality of who they are and how they had met for the society that does not accept or tolerate incest.
Unaware of the genetic mistake they were about to create - their granddaughter, who during puberty turns out to be a hermaphrodite, Desdemona and Lefty are joined by love and lust. Eventually, however, they become the victims of a crime they committed themselves. Bad guilt makes Desdemona withdraw from her husband, fearing that the outcome of their sexual intercourse might be a baby monster. Eventually, both of them withdraw from each other and lead an unhappy life until they die.
Through the fate of characters in "Middlesex", Eugenides shows serious consequences of incest - mental as well as physical.