The blurb has the right idea, in my opinion, take the opening line!:
I was born twice: first, as a baby girl, on a remarkably smogless Detroit day of January 1960; and then again, as a teenage boy, in an emergency room near Petoskey, Michigan, in August of 1974.
There are no real spoilers here. Cal was born intersex, but raised as a girl, and later on transitioned to male. But as with most things, its the journey thats important here.
Cal is introduced to us as a middle-aged Greek-American male, living currently in germany. And the book every now and then shows us this 'present' pov. But in order to really tell his story Cal sends us right back into the past, beginning with his grandparents before they made the journey to America. Progressing through his parents story, up to his birth. This is a fairly impressive piece of story telling. And while at first I was a bit confused, believing I was getting a book about an intersex person in America, and instead finding myself reading a piece of historical fiction with all the drama and incest of a greek tragedy. But in the end the story is well worth it. And to Cal, this history is all part of him. The genetic mutation that caused his hermaphroditism, is carried through history and culture and family, and it's all an integral part of who he is. Just as much as his own childhood (which does get plenty of pagetime too). And it has to be said, the romance of his grandparents was quite a beautiful story in its own way.
There are a lot of metaphors within the book, a recurrance of images to do with change, and new beginnings; the silk worms, Cal's grandparents journey from greece to America, greek mythology etc. Some readers complain that the metaphors could be more used, but really how hard is it to see the meaning yourself, I don't want to have deeper meaning bashed in my face like I'm too stupid to look for it myself! I thought which Eugenides does a good job of gracefully bringing all the symbology together, without belabouring the point.
One point I've seen a few people make in their review is that Cal doesn't seem to spend a lot of time 'deciding' to change from female to male. Their complaint is that they wanted to see Cal's thought process, how he decided what he really was. But in my opinion, if you have to spend a lot of time deciding.. then its not really who you are. I think the point for Cal is precisely that he didn't have to decide, it just suddenly made sense. Anything after that is just the 'how' and not the 'why' of it.
A lot of people don't like a HFN (have fun now) ending, and prefer a more complete finish. But in this case, considering the scope of the book, anything else would have been a bit trite compared to whats gone before. In a certain way the 'past' portion of the book doesn't need its own ending, as we already have the 'present' portion of the book, even if we don't see what happens inbetween, we generally get the idea that it was business as usual.
I really enjoyed Middlesex. And I would very much recommend it, but as with most things, try not to have too many expectations, just go with the flow, it's well worth it.Additional Info:
If you find yourself curious about any of the intersex terms used in the novel, or, for example, you find yourself asking "But what does Cal actually look like Down There
?". Don't worry, it's perfectly normal to ask these questions. And I highly recommend you check the following link to help satisfy your human curiosity.
The link contains plenty of good diagrams, but no explicit photographs whatsoever. The rest of the blog is also extremely informative on the intersex topic.