The novel has won the 2003 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction, and for once this reader here agrees. In good literary tradition, Eugenides has found an “unheard of event”, which he narrates in a truly Homeric epic style.
Callie, his heroine, is born a hermaphrodite. This seems to be the latest narrative fashion and gives Eugenides a good excuse for digging up Callie´s family history back to its roots in Asia Minor. And Eugenides is a brilliant story-teller! You never tire of hearing more and more details about Greek-Turkish relations, family traditions back on that small island, and then following Callie´s grandparents to the New World.
Like the author the reader sees everything through Callie´s mind, which stretches probability a bit, as Callie obviously can´t know, what was going on inside her grandparents´minds. But Eugenides tells all this tongue-in-cheek and the reader chortles along.
At the centre of the novel is Callie´s development from her earliest stage, another good old literary tradition of the “Entwicklungsroman”. Unlike classical authors like the German Kleist, he doesn´t shroud unusual sexual predispositions in mystery, but uses them to give the age old topic of the pains of growing up new twists and turns.
One of his critics calls the novel “a big ,fat, funny American book without which no chattering-class home is complete”.