Middlesex (2002) by Jeffrey Eugenides
I read this wonderful novel fairly recently, even though I had wanted to read it for years. And I have to tell ya, folks- IT'S PRETTY OUTSTANDING.
Now, if you've read Eugenides before, you'll know this "outstanding" thing already. If you haven't yet read Eugenides, well- I've only read Middlesex so far, but I imagine his other books are also pretty great.
What makes me use all caps and italics and whatnot and blahblahblah? It's Eugenides deft handling of the plot's large scope, the complex interconnections between characters, the meanderings of history, and the first-person narrative voice- a voice that fairly jumps out at you with its energy and vibrancy.
What is it about? The narrator is Cal Stephanides, a hermaphrodite from birth who only realizes this about her/himself as puberty approaches. But Cal is also Greek-American, descended from people who escaped the massacre in Smyrna in 1922. In America, Cal's family works hard to "assimilate" but as the book's focus on family history, immigration, incest, and war reveals, each one of us is an amalgamation of everyone who came before. We are each walking histories, and Cal herself imagines how her hermaphrodism is a physical and metaphorical product of her past. From Smyrna to Detroit to New York, Middlesex is a roller-coaster ride of personal and public history.
So, what I'm saying is, this is the kind of book that will persist and, in 50 years, be called a "classic." Go read it.