In the spring of 1974, Calliope Stephanides, a student at a girls' school, Grosse Pointe, MI, finds herself drawn to a chain-smoking, strawberry-blonde classmate with a gift for acting. The passion that furtively develops between them - along with Callie's failure to develop - leads Callie to suspect that she is not like other girls. The explanation for this shocking state of affairs takes us out of suburbia - back before the Detroit race riots of 1967, before the rise of the Motor City, to 1922, when the Turks sacked Smyrna and Callie's grandparents fled for their lives, back to a tiny village in Asia Minor where two lovers, and one rare genetic mutation, set in motion the metamorphosis that will turn Callie into a being both mythical and perfectly real: a hermaphrodite.
Sprawling across eight decades - and one unusually awkward adolescence - Jeffrey Eugenide's long-awaited second novel is a grand, utterly original fable of crossed bloodlines, the intricacies of gender, and the deep, untidy promptings of desire.
It marks the fulfillment of a huge talent, named one of America's best young novelists by both Granta and "The New Yorker.