|Purchase: Amazon | Chapters|
Genre: Literary Fiction
Start Date: Feb. 21, 2011
Finished Date: Mar. 6, 2011 (14 days)
Where Found: Chapters-Indigo
Why Read: General interest & it was on my TBR list
Read For: Back to the Classics Challenge (Pulitizer Prize winner/nominee) (2/8)
Summary: A teenage hermaphrodite seeking answers about his identity traces his genetic and family history from 1920s Greece when her grandparents immigrated to Michigan from the Great Depression as his parents struggled in the dwindling economy and into the 1970s when a great change comes to his life.
First of all, I want to make a short disclaimer of sorts that the use of pronouns in this review is a sensitive issue and that any misuse of and/or offense taken by such is unintentional, and I hope that I am applying them appropriately.
Novels that seamlessly weave together several seemingly disjointed themes are amazing. What seems impossible to interconnect becomes second nature. In this novel, identity, immigration, sexuality, culture, coming-of-age, religion, ritual, and family are fluid themes that meld together in a continuous flow from beginning to end.
How Cal's journey from two generations prior to his birth affects his identity and self-regard, coming to fruition in his teen years, is extraordinary and unexpected. We follow his grandparents Lefty and Desdemona Stephanides from war-torn Greece to the Depression of the U.S., his parents, Milton and Tessie through a tumultous economic time in Michigan, and to Cal, whose identity is forthcoming from page 1, remains constantly in question throughout the novel, until the 1970s when he comes to terms with a hidden truth that solidifies in his teen years.
At first, I found the book quirky and a bit slow, but once the secret of Lefty and Desdemona's relationship is made, my interest piqued, and I was taken by it from then on. Milton & Tessie's struggles with maintaining work during the Depression provides some of the best moments in the novel and the strongest writing. Cal's voice is dependable, sympathetic, and always searching for answers in his family history to explain his genetics from what seems to be a coincidental twist of fate but culminates into a reason for himself through a series of anecdotal family lore.
The writing can be uneven at times, as a critic pointed out, but once the characters reach Michigan, you become used to Eugenides's rhythm, a practice that we take with every book we read. As for the subject matter at hand, I hope that it brings further education and acceptance to people like Cal who have a fascinating, multitudinous story to tell. We can all relate to and have likely read many books in the bildungsroman genre, but you have never read one like this before. I highly recommend that you step outside your comfort zone and give this book a try.
Rank: (A)- Very Good, Highly Recommend