It's not often that I get a chance to read a novel, but as I boarded the plane in Hawaii, I ran to the bookshop and picked up the first book that looked decent. Middlesex, by Jeffrey Eugenides. It is one of the most beautifully written books I've ever read. It's also a winner of the Pulitzer Prize.
Here is a passage that picks up with a child answering the door during the burning and pillaging of Smyrna by Turkish soldiers in the early 1900's. The family is hiding in their apartment, while the father, a physician, has been out to tend to a neighbor.
When they hear knocking, they jump. Stepan goes to the window and looks down. "It must be Father."
"Go. Let him in! Quick!" Toukhie says.
Karekin vaults down the stairs two at a time. At the door he stops, collects himself, and quietly unbolts the door. At first, when he pulls it open, he sees nothing. Then there's a soft hiss, followed by a ripping noise. The noise sounds as though it has nothing to do with him until suddenly a shirt button pops off and clatters against the door. Karekin looks down as all at once his mouth fills with a warm fluid. He feels himself being lifted off his feet, the sensation bringing back to him childhood memories of being whisked into the air by his father, and he says, "Dad, my button," before he is lifted high enough to make out the steel bayonet puncturing his sternum. The fire's reflection leads along the gun barrel, over the sight and hammer, to the soldier's ecstatic face.
Here's the beginning of the Amazon review:
"I was born twice: first, as a baby girl, on a remarkably smogless Detroit day in January of 1960; and then again, as a teenage boy, in an emergency room near Petoskey, Michigan, in August of 1974." And so begins Middlesex, the mesmerizing saga of a near-mythic Greek American family and the "roller-coaster ride of a single gene through time."