Middlesex

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The Virgin Suicides was a triumph of strange suburban melancholy. It marked Eugenides as a novelist of voluptuous gifts. Middlesex is a sign he's not sure what to do with them. The narrator, Cal, is a hermaphrodite raised by unsuspecting parents as a girl, until puberty forces him (her?) to opt for manhood. But before Cal can tell his own intricate story, we get hundreds of pages about his parents and grandparents (who are brother and sister; it's a complicated clan), the burning of Smyrna, the Detroit riots of 1967 and the Greek-American embrace of the beckoning American scene. Some of this footloose book is charming. Most of it is middling.