This unique novel is a coming-of-age story with a twist: Calliope Stephanidies was born a girl in 1960 in Detroit, then born again as Cal, a teenage boy in 1974. And so begins the story of a hermaphrodite, a long tale spanning three generations of a Greek immigrant family and the gene deficiency that caused Cal’s condition.
The novel is an amazing achievement. The story is told through Cal’s eyes and the story dips in and out of the present day when he’s living as a middle-aged man in Berlin. The story spans three generations from his grandparents, who moved to America from Greek Asia Minor, parents, and then his own childhood, and it’s beautifully written – as a Classical Studies graduate, I loved all the mythology references.
It’s part historical novel, part memoir, part coming-of-age, part romance (I enjoyed reading about his grandparent’s romance and loved Calliope’s relationship with the Object – I’d love to know what happened to her and whether she ever found out the truth), part gender issues/intersexuality.
My only criticism is that I just found it too long in places, and at times I got a little fidgety and wanted to jump ahead to find out how Calliope was ‘born again’ as a teenage boy, and her reaction and decisions afterwards. But don’t let that put you off – it’s an incredible book.