The Middlesteins

by Jami Attenberg

Book, 2012



Call number




New York : Grand Central Pub., 2012.


Two siblings with very different personalities attempt to take control of their mother's food obsession and massive weight gain to save her life after their father walks out and leaves her reeling in the Chicago suburbs.

Media reviews

"The Middlesteins" is uncomfortable, funny in spots, and ultimately, hopeful that some sort of emotional connection is possible, even in a family fractured by silence.

User reviews

LibraryThing member katiekrug
This book kind of snuck up on me. I was reading along, enjoying it well enough, when I suddenly realized it had moved into the compelling read category - the kind of book that I hate to put down, can't wait to pick up again, and wish wouldn't end.

It's the story of an unraveling family in Chicago,
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torn apart by the father's decision to leave his morbidly obese wife, a decision unfathomable and almost unforgivable to their two adult children. That Edie Middlestein is not a well woman is obvious, and her resistance to receiving any help frustrates her daughter, son, and daughter-in-law, but it is Richard who bears the brunt of their anger as he tries to reclaim some semblance of a life of his own.

For me, the fact of Edie's obesity was secondary to the story - this is not a book about a fat woman. It's about the different kinds of relationships we forge in life, how they grow and evolve and, yes, disintegrate, and it's about acceptance of what we can control and what we can't. In that way, Jami Attenberg has written a thoughtful novel, full of interesting characters, well-developed relationships, and some darkly comic moments.

"But what reason would Robin have to trust her with her heart? Even if Edie was sharing her own heart with her now. No, not sharing. That was too casual a word. She was digging her fingertips into her breastbone and clawing her way inside through her skin, excavating through blood and bones, mining her flesh for that precious beating object, and then laying it in front of her daughter for her judgment." (page 131-132)
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LibraryThing member RandyMetcalfe
This novel has many of the ingredients of a contemporary suburban comedy: gently extreme but non-self-aware characters; a telescopic perspective that can examine these characters over a sixty-year span (and beyond, since at points, as though the author is bored with the story she is telling, she
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leaps far into the future of individual characters in order to give the reader a glimpse of how their life turns out); a self-inflicted crisis; and some impending high-pressure occasions that will force all of the characters into close proximity. You might think that all one need do with such ingredients is to throw them in a bowl, stir them up, place the mixture on the stove and let it simmer. Thus the difference between a cook and a chef: it's love. A writerly chef loves all of her characters, whatever their flaws, and works hard to bring them fully to life. The cook is satisfied with whatever results from the recipe no matter how bland and tasteless it might be. It seems strange that a book so focused on food (at least superficially) should end up being so processed and flat.

And it's not funny either, which might have been a saving grace. It's not even quirkily observant and sweet. It's the kind of book you would otherwise be happy to leave at the cottage after a summer read, but you don't because you don't want to clutter up the cottage with stuff you'll definitely never use again.

All of which makes the effusive blurbs quoted in the copy I had virtually inexplicable.
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LibraryThing member brenzi
Edie Middlestein has spent her entire life chasing the Big Mac. Something has been missing from her life since she was a child and she has used food to fill up the void. Now a diabetic suffering from massive complications Edie’s life is a mess. After thirty years of marriage, her husband leaves
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her when he determines that there's no room for both him and (well-over 300 pound) Edie’s obsession with food, in this marriage.

But there’s more to this engaging story than food obsession. Edie’s family loves her and they have a difficult time coming to terms with their father for abandoning their mother when she is so sick and surprise, surprise, Edie ends up with a boyfriend who is crazy about here just the way she is.

Attenberg tells the story with humor and compassion and tackles what is a real problem in America today in a way that allows the reader to consider all the thorny questions that accompany the question of obesity today.
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LibraryThing member jmchshannon
For a relatively short novel, there is a lot packed between the pages of Jami Attenberg’s The Middlesteins There is the family dynamic of the Middlesteins – overbearing and obese Edie, mild-mannered and obfuscated Richard, peace-loving Benny, argumentative and lost Robin, perfectionist and
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obdurate Rachelle, and then the twins who are forced to navigate their way around the chaos. Their relationships to one another provided the backbone of the entire novel, as each comes to grips with the disruption to the family that Richard’s departure has caused. Then there is the psychological and physiological issues of food. The complex interactions and relationships with each other, with their neighbors and friends, and with the inanimate objects with which they surround themselves are by turns hilarious, bittersweet, and heartbreaking and provide the ultimate tale for the modern era.

Food and obesity are very much at the top of current cultural awareness, and Ms. Attenberg uses the heightened consciousness to create scenarios and characters to which any reader can relate. Through Edie and Rachelle, she maneuvers through the complicated psychological and devastating physiological side effects of food obsessions, thereby allowing the reader to understand that there are no easy answers and no quick fixes to this extremely hot topic. For Edie, food is love and happiness and fills a persistent emotional void, while Rachelle sees it as just one more item to control within her sharply ordered life. Whereas Edie eats to find solace, Rachelle stops eating or drastically reduces her eating to create order among chaos. Both women’s approaches to food are unhealthy in the extreme. Interestingly enough, while Rachelle explains her actions as being the healthy choice, as setting an example for her children and for her mother-in-law, it is towards Edie that the reader sympathizes. With all of her health issues and her unwholesome attitudes towards food, a reader knows that at least hers is a love affair with the very objects that cross her lips. A reader understands that to take away the very thing she most loves in the world would be a surer death sentence than all the food-attributed diseases that currently ravage her body. Still, while a reader might sympathize or identify with Edie more than Rachelle, a reader is simultaneously horrified by Edie’s own actions and reactions to food. The descriptions of her eating habits tends towards the obscene while the descriptions of her health issues are a disgusting reminder of how dangerous a weapon food can be. It is a multifaceted reaction to a convoluted situation that continues to confound experts and novices alike.

Much like the food issues, a reader’s reactions and opinions of the Middlestein family is thoroughly complex. Even disregarding her weight, Edie is a major force within the lives of the Middlesteins and their circle of influence. Much like within her own family, a reader’s reaction to her is decidedly mixed. One can admire her generosity towards others while at the same time abhor her relationship towards her husband. Similarly, one can sympathize with Richard’s reasons for leaving Edie and desire for happiness while disapproving of the timing of his decision. The same holds true for the rest of the family. They are all neither completely good nor completely evil, and a reader will find himself fluctuating wildly among differing opinions for each of them. In other words, it is a family that is as close to realistic as one can possibly get in a work of fiction.

The Middlestein family consists of strong, opinionated family members, and The Middlesteins reflects this passionate dynamic with its easy evocation of fierce emotions and intense opinions about each of the characters. The fact that these opinions and emotions vacillate so often in the course of the novel is proof that Ms. Attenberg understands familial relationships and the duality of humanity. She tackles the intricate issues of relationships and obsessions with delicacy and with spot-on wit that eases the sting of the realism behind her words. The Middlesteins is a take-no-prisoners type of novel and at 288 pages, it is a short but extremely powerful read designed to get people thinking about their own relationships while shining the spotlight on the evolving and increasingly urgent obesity epidemic.

Acknowledgments: Thank you to NetGalley and to Hachette Book Group for my review copy!
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LibraryThing member Beamis12
Food, everything it can and does mean to a person, from comfort, love, relaxation, well being, to in the case of this novel, a cause of death. The family in this novel is so very real and for all appearance not very likable. Yet beneath the core they are all so wanting, insecure and so very real,
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actually like most of us and probably our families. Narrated bu different characters, sometimes the reader learns back stories, oftentimes the future, but will it be real and the parts about Edie always have the subtitle of her weight. You see, Edie cannot stop, or maybe does not want to stop eating. Different family members react in different ways, her husband of forty years leaves her at last, but even that does not stop her quest for more and more food. The husbands struggle to reenter the dating scene, her twin grandchildren and their quest to learn a dance to perform for their important Jewish coming of age ceremony, her daughter in aw and daughter who feel that maybe it might be part of their responsibility to stop her eating. Well told, in a genuine voice, yet it takes looking beyond the top layers to get the true impact of this novel.
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LibraryThing member nomadreader
The basics: The Middlesteins is the story of the Middlestein family: its obese matriarch Edie, her husband Richard, their adult children Robin and Benny, and Benny's wife and children. The family lives in the Chicago suburbs and the narration shifts between these main characters and moves through
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time non-linearly.

My thoughts: The experience I had reading The Middlesteins is one of my favorites: I knew very little going into it, so I was able to enter the journey of this novel without any preconceptions. Early on, I fell hard for Robin's sharp, raw observations about herself and her world: "Robin looked at Daniel and had the meanest thought of her entire life. He'll do." I was so enamored with the way she sees the world, I was sad when the narration shifted to Benny's wife. Attenberg soon alleviated this pain, however, as I discovered each of the narrators were fascinating. I adore this scene, in which Rachelle outlines all of the lies she's told to her husband:
"She lies once or twice a month about going to matinees during the day by herself because she thinks he might begrudge her that pleasure when he works so hard himself, and this lie necessitates a double lie, one when he asks what she did that day, and two when they go to see a movie she has already seen and she has to pretend she hasn't seen it yet, which has led her husband to wonder if she has lost her sense of humor, or, in a more subtle way he has not been able to name yet, her capacity for joy, because she barely laughs at the jokes she already knows are coming."
Attenberg utilizes the most omniscient form of narration possible, as she alludes to past, present and future simultaneously: "And then there he was, in a suit (it was his only suit, but she didn't know that yet), and he was smiling (his happiest days were behind him the minute he met her, but he didn't know that yet)."

While the character development is the focus of this novel, there is an impressive amount of plot in The Middlesteins. At times it felt like a play, where the pieces and characters were getting into their places for the real action to begin: for the reader to catch up on the past and present and join the future of The Middlesteins.

Favorite passage: "We are allowed to have more than one feeling at once," said Kenneth. "We are human beings, not ants."

The verdict: Jami Attenberg is a beautiful, insightful writer, and The Middlesteins is the contemporary family saga at its best. In less than 300 pages, Attenberg fully forms multiple character-driven narratives into a cohesive, poignant, and moving novel.
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LibraryThing member Pennydart
Edie Middlestein has had a weight problem her whole life, and by the time she is in her late-50s, she is morbidly obese. Her compulsive eating is ruining not just her health, but her whole life. Her husband, Richard, leaves her, unable to deal with her slow suicide any longer. Her daughter Robin is
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repulsed by her, and while her son Benny would like to help her, he is deflected by his self-absorbed wife Rachelle, whose only real interest is in planning an over-the-top b’nai mitzvah for her obnoxious twins, Josh and Emily. In addition, Edie is forced into early retirement from her law firm, by the children of the partners who first hired her. All she has left is her new friend Kenneth, a widower and the owner of a Chinese restaurant where Edie regularly consumes huge meals.

In general, I try not to subscribe to the view that there have to be “likeable” characters in a book for it to be good. But I simply found it hard to be interested in anyone in “The Middlesteins,” and, since it is a character novel, thus found it hard to enjoy the book. Edie could have been a very interesting character, but she is just not well-enough to developed to really understand her obsession. And the others, with the possible exception of Richard, are described with even less nuance than is Edie.

The book is a quick read, but ultimately an unsatisfying one.
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LibraryThing member suetu
Is there hope for the Middlesteins?

Edie Middlestein is a wife, mother, grandmother, lawyer, Jew, retiree, and an addict—not necessarily in that order. Edie is addicted to food, and her story starts not at a certain age, but at a specific weight: “Edie, 62 pounds.” Her life is recounted not in
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passing years, but in gaining pounds. But the bulk of this tale is relating Edie’s later adulthood. Edie’s children, Robin and Benny, are grown. Even her grandchildren are entering their teen years. At this point, Edie is morbidly obese—well over 300 pounds—sick, and her husband of decades, Richard, has just left her.

In the pages of this brief novel, Jami Attenberg has drawn a detailed character study of a woman and a family in crisis. As you may have gathered, this is a character-driven, rather than plot-driven tale. It’s less a matter of what’s going to happen—because I think we all know what’s going to happen—than whether it’s too late for these people. Is change possible? Is happiness possible?

Attenberg’s characters are finely-drawn, both sympathetic and deeply flawed in almost all cases. The issues with which they deal have the messy complexity of real life, without tidy narrative structures. Is it reprehensible to leave your sick wife? Yes, yes it is. But is it unreasonable to seek happiness? No it is not. These are the sort of issues wrestled with by the members of the dysfunctional Middlestein family.

There are no easy answers, but there insights into human nature along the way. I cared about these people. I hoped for them. In the end, that’s all you can do.
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LibraryThing member ccayne
The Middlesteins are at a tipping point and we are there to see it. Quirky but wonderful family story - believable characters, simple insightful writing, a winner.
LibraryThing member KatieANYC
Sneakily good. Attenberg starts with the minutely personal and gently nuzzles the book outward into wider and wider circles until she's deftly and efficiently built a complex entangled family. The book lacks a certain intellectual logic in terms of structure and focus, but the emotional logic is
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perfect, so the reader is perpetually surprised and satisfied. It should also be said that Attenberg has thematized food to such an extent that anyone with the slightest impulse towards emotional eating will be tormented by familiarity. She's remarkably good on descriptions of food (that Chinese restaurant, JEEZ), how we need it, how it gives us away, how perplexing and difficult the social boundaries are about food and eating, and how neurotic we are as a society for having made food so problematic.
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LibraryThing member shelleyraec
The Middlesteins is the story of a dysfunctional Jewish family in suburban America. While Edith eats her self to death, her daughter drinks, her son and his wife worries and her husband of forty years makes plans to leave her.

In this character driven novel, shifting perspectives gives the reader
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insight into the issues within the family that both have everything and nothing to do with Edie's morbid obesity.

When her husband, Richard leaves Edie and files for divorce he is seen as callous and selfish for deserting his wife of forty years in such ill health. But as Richard's 'side' is revealed we learn that the marriage died some time ago and Richard is convinced he has left to save himself;

“Was he a bold individual making a last grab at happiness? Or a coward who could not contend with fighting for his wife’s life? Was he merely soulless?”

Their daughter, Robin, is distracted by her own intimacy issues, content to allow her sister in law to manage most of her mother's care. She despises Richard for leaving their mother and makes him the target of her anger and grief about her mother's condition.

While Benny worries silently, losing his hair at a prodigious rate, his wife becomes obsessed with Edie's weight and diabetes. Rachelle tries to enforce exercise and diet on Edie but when she is only marginally successful she turns the focus to her own family, strictly controlling the food intake of her husband and two children, Josh and Emily. her own fear of aging and mortality unseating her common sense.

As teenagers, Josh and Emily are only vaguely concerned by the family turmoil, especially as they are approaching their B'Nai Mitzvah and busy rehearsing a hip hop routine for their So You Think You Can Dance? themed gala. Emily is a little more sensitive to the problems but at just fourteen is ill equipped to make much sense of them.

Edie is only heard from rarely with brief reminiscences of her life at various stages. They reveal an awkward teenager, a lacklustre marriage, poor self esteem and her unhealthy relationship with food, an addiction she feels powerless to control. In the main, Attenberg manages to portray Edie as a woman who is flawed in the ways that any ordinary person is. Her morbid obesity adds complications but is not the defining element of who she is. Edith is a mother, a grandmother, a friend and even a lover even at 350 plus pounds.

The Middlesteins is quite a sombre tale though not without flashes of black humour. I did struggle to connect with parts of the story, partly I think because of the cultural disconnect (with the Jewish population accounting for half a percent of the total Australian population and most concentrated in major cities) I feel sure I am missing an essential frame of reference.

A wry observation of family dysfunction and failure in middle class America, The Middlesteins is modern, literary fiction. It is a fairly quick read but not one I found particularly memorable. That it is endorsed by Jonathan Franzen may be an indicator as to whether you will like it or not.
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LibraryThing member shazjhb
Excellent book. Interesting story of a family.
LibraryThing member SqueakyChu
The Middlestein family is not without its problems. Edie and Richard Middlestein, a married Jewish couple living in Chicago, have two grown children. Their daughter Robin, who is single, is angry just like her mother. Their son Benny is more mild, but he is married to Rochelle who has decided that
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her mother-in-law is on a binge to kill herself due to increasing obesity and makes it her personal crusade to enlist other family members to help. There are also Emily and Josh, the twin children of Benny and Rochelle, who are fast approaching their "bnai mitzvah" (plural of bar mitzvah and/or bat mitzvah). Richard's response to Edie's increasing weight gain is to leave her. Oy! Does that resolve the problem? You know that the answer is a resounding "No!".

What happened in the end really surprised me. I think it's worth reading this book to find out.

Jami Attenburg is a new-to-me author and one whose works I hope to read more of in the future. I think her writing is crisp and focused. Her characters are boldly drawn with all their quirks. I also liked the "Jewish slant" to this story, although it's not really a "Jewish" story. I do wonder, though, however, if this story would be offensive to those who do suffer from obesity. I'm guessing not, but I don't know for sure.
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LibraryThing member teresa1953
So much has been written about this novel, I don't believe I can add anything more to the discussion.

The story revolves around Edie Middlestein who overeats big time. We join her at various weights during her life which ultimately culminates in her being over 300 pounds. It examines the role that
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food plays in comforting unhappy people and is very well written. Also, the author illustrates the effect it has on her husband, children and grandchildren

My only aside is that I did find my attention wandering half way through the book and I had the impression that the story wasn't really going anywhere. This lifted and this was ultimately a recommended read.
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LibraryThing member KristySP
I was a bit wary of this book because it seemed to me that it would be super depressing. It is sad and a bit depressing, and in the beginning I thought, Okay, here we are in Jonathan Franzen land again. But take heart--it gets better. You do not contemplate suicide whilst reading (as I totally did
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during "The Corrections.") It is a lovely, enjoyable portrait of a family from a talented first time writer. My only complaints have to do with wanting to know more. I have some questions about characters and their motivations, but I respect her decision not to overwrite the story. Does this make sense? I hope so.
A good book, overall, if you enjoy portraits of ordinary, middle class family dysfunction. :)
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LibraryThing member thewanderingjew
I found this to be a very sad story about a family falling apart because it was never bound too tightly, from the beginning. It seemed to be governed by anger and a lack of remorse for the perceived hurt they caused each other. They were cruel to each other, abusive emotionally and verbally, and on
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a rare occasion, physically. The book is very short, but it makes its point. The family seeks forgiveness from each other too late. Once the person dies, there is no way to find redemption. Sometimes, victory can be snatched from the jaws of defeat and a new life can be enjoyed. Sometimes, the time for opportunity passes. When is the right time to exit from a situation that is too painful to continue to live with? Is there a right time? Who decides which one is the victim and which the victimizer? Is the victim ever partially responsible for their failures because of their own behavior? Who deserves punishment? The book was depressing because, even in the end, there was little to inspire hope for a better outcome in the future.

The Middlesteins are an unhappy family filled with dysfunctional members. Each of them takes a long time to discover their own purpose in life; each searches for happiness and finds it elusive. Each seems bent on finding unhappiness instead, always getting angry about something. Did any of them ever really love each other, truly care for each other? The only one who seemed to really care about any of the family, even those she disliked, was the daughter in law, Rachelle, though her concern was colored with resentment, and she was very self righteous and self absorbed. The grandchildren seemed alternately selfish and compassionate, bright and foolish. The author examined many different types of relationships. She got into the heads of the characters, in terms of their basic, selfish needs, but they were never truly developed as full human beings with hearts.

At the age of 60, Richard Middlestein, leaves his overweight, very sick, 300 pound wife, Edie, after 40 years of her abusive tongue and their mutually abusive lifestyle. She won’t do anything to improve her own health, gaining pound after pound, eating constantly with abandon, although the doctors have warned her that she is killing herself. The children are angry that their father has left their sick mother, regardless of his reasons. Rachelle does not want him in her children’s lives because of his selfishness and son Benny meekly acquiesces to his stronger spouse. Daughter Robin is like her mother, sharp tongued. She uses it to berate her father and argues often with the cast of characters. She is discontented. She, too, looks for faults in everything and everyone, and if it wasn’t for her boyfriend Daniel, she would never learn to find any happiness. Benny, Rachelle’s husband is Richard and Edie’s only son. He wants to disappear and not face the situation of his parent’s misery. He just wants to be one of the “good old guys” when it comes to his father and he knows confronting his mother about her lifestyle is futile. Rachelle spends her time planning their social lives, their B’nai Mitzvah for their children, Emily and Josh, shopping and attending to her cosmetic needs. Edie, about three hundred pounds near the end of her life, eats all day, but she a devoted parent and daughter. She is educated, was employed, and was quite respected for her ability, but she is eventually fired because her size makes others uncomfortable, something she neither fights nor tries to change by dieting.

These are unhappy, failed people if judged by accomplishments in life and interactions with others. They and their friends, all of the characters, major and minor, seem shallow and self centered, catty and judgmental, often with misplaced loyalties.

At first I thought the book was a parody on Jewish families, on Jewish life and Jewish guilt, but then I realized it was broader, in concept. It was about all relationships, how some go sour, some thrive, some never should be, it was about lots of narcissistic, self-serving, characters who never seemed to grow out of their childhoods, whose tongues often wagged with negative comments and who never developed beyond the stage of their id, or of immediate gratification.

The reader of this Hachette audio was quite good with the exception of her mispronunciation of a Yiddish expression.
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LibraryThing member castironskillet
This book left me wanting more, but not in a good way. It felt too short and that the characters could have been explored much more. I liked the characters and I liked the writing but by the end, I felt like the author wrote a long short story rather than a novel. I wanted to find out more about
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the pasts of the characters and what made them tick and I felt like those things were only superficially touched upon.
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LibraryThing member bookappeal
Well-written, multi-character story but not an enjoyable experience. What happens in this family is painful and sad.
LibraryThing member whitreidtan
I have a very conflicted relationship with food. I know that I eat for more than just sustenance. When we moved when I was in high school, I gained 30 pounds in 3 months. Was I growing? Possibly. But I clearly turned to food as comfort at that point in my life (and at other points subsequently). I
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was lucky though because I was a very active kid and that didn't dump me into the obese range. Now that I'm a lot older and not so active, I still have a complicated relationship with food (and it shows). Even knowing that I turn to the great white psychiatrist (aka my fridge) or the comforting closet (aka my pantry) when I shouldn't, I can't seem to break the cycle of poor food choices and looking for solace in food. So I was very curious to read Jami Attenberg's new novel, The Middlesteins, about a wife, mother, and grandmother who is eating herself to death and the ways in which her immediate family handles both her compulsive overeating and the reasons behind it.

Edie Middlestein is killing herself with food. She is morbidly obese and suffering from advanced, uncontrolled diabetes and arterial disease, and she's facing surgery. It is at this point that Richard, her husband of forty some years, walks out on her and files for divorce. And while food is the set up and the biggest force in Edie's life, this is really more a novel about connection, family, belonging, and the ways we cope with, or fail to cope with, life than it is about the obesity epidemic swallowing the country. Edie has always used food to dull her feelings, right back into childhood when her mother used food as a reward and a solace for her emotionally needy daughter. Her weight has varied over the years (chapters start with the number on the scale at that point in her life) and we can see how outside events have negatively and positively affected that number once she has internalized them.

Edie became a wife, a mother, a lawyer but not one of those things filled the void in her like food does. She and Richard have not had a happy marriage for a long time and the timing of his leaving is viewed by their children as completely selfish. It alienates him from his family and friends but he can no longer sustain the life they have been leading. This leaves the care of Edie, in the aftermath of her surgery and her doctor's pronouncement that she will die if she doesn't curb her out of control appetite, to her children, riddled as they are with their own destructive tendencies and unhappy coping mechanisms. Middlestein son Benny smokes pot most evenings after his own teenaged twins are in bed. Benny's wife Rachelle obsessively tracks her own family's food and throws herself into planning an extravagant B'nai Mitzvah for the twins. Middlestein daughter Robin is an angry alcoholic who doesn't know how to maintain a healthy relationship. And it is these three adults, adrift in their own lives, publically competent but really only barely coping themselves, who suddenly feel a responsibility (and if truth be told, resentment as well) toward Edie and her health.

The novel is narrated by several of the characters, including a chorus of Edie and Richard's friends from synagogue, the people who are supposed to be Edie's tribe, and this gives the reader insight not only into others' feelings about Edie, her voracious eating, and Richard's defection from their house of recrimination and bitterness, but it also offers glimpses of their own stunted inability to love and to know how to live in this world. It is a grand view of everyone's dysfunction, which if not as personally destructive as Edie's gorging, is just as checked out of the deeper emotions of life. The emotional void and flat affect that looms over each of the characters makes this a tough, depressing, and even exhausting read. None of the characters was particularly connected, each refusing meaningful intervention in each others' lives, not just in the case of Edie, but really in all instances. Rife with unhappiness, Attenberg has offered no easy answers about either comfort food as a way to temporarily fill a hole nor about the way to embrace high emotion and ultimately to love. There are tiny glimmers of hope for the future in the text but they are overwhelmed by the more painful, lackluster lives of these characters who stand alone and isolated despite being a family. Well written and full of issues both personal and public, this might be uncomfortable to read but ultimately it is a great book club choice if you can stomach the bleakness of the tone.
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LibraryThing member deborahk
I liked this book, but I didn't love it. Probably the fastest read in a long time, which shows I was compelled by it. But in the end it was a superficial treatment of the characters and the circumstances.
LibraryThing member TooBusyReading
There are lots of novels and memoirs about dysfunctional families, and this one adds another novel to the pile. This one, however, is not like any I've read before.

Each chapter about Edie, an overweight woman who eats massive amounts to try to fill that hole in her soul, is labeled with her current
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weight. As with so many radically overweight or underweight people, it is hard to see beyond her eating and her size. Her family doesn't seem to. And her family has enough problems without taking on hers.

The characters seemed so real to me and even those whose traits and actions were not very likable were still endearing to me, something hard to do. It's easy to laugh at the fictional fat people and, at the same time, criticize those who are not kind to her. It's a novel; it's okay to laugh at those we wouldn't ridicule in real life, isn't it?

A short and easy read, this is a bittersweet story with a great deal of soul, not soon to be forgotten.

I was given an advance e-book copy by the publisher, for which I am grateful.
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LibraryThing member c.archer
Thank you to Hachette Book Group and Shelf Awareness for the chance to read the e-book ARC of The Middlesteins.
I very much enjoyed The MiddleSteins. It was a complex but funny story of a Jewish family living in the suburbs of Chicago. The humor was very sharp since this family had many problems.
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The dynamics of the family were out of whack thanks to the emotions of the matriarch who hid them behind her out of control eating and obesity. Although the family tried to help her regain her health, they were not effective and usually just gave in to her. The ending is somewhat bittersweet as some of the members of the family continue to blame each another for their sadness. There are hints at acceptance from others, and altogether it reads much like the very real dysfunctions in many families.
Again, the humor in this book is often a little dark and because of that I would recommend this book for people who appreciate Jonathan Tropper or Augusten Burroughs. I appreciate the opportunity to pre-read this before it's release and will be sure to recommend it to my friends.
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LibraryThing member bookwyrmm
Interesting read about a dysfunctional Jewish family and eating disorders. One chapter was very cleverly written in first person plural. Not sure if Molly Ringwald makes for the best narrator, though, as her voice has a little too much air in it.
LibraryThing member sandra.k.heinzman
This was a fast read, and so we'll written. It's all about family relationships, about fear and forgiveness, blame and acceptance. There's a huge preoccupation with food in this book, which I related to, and was horrified by at the same time. I highly recommend this book.
LibraryThing member sandra.k.heinzman
This was a fast read, and so we'll written. It's all about family relationships, about fear and forgiveness, blame and acceptance. There's a huge preoccupation with food in this book, which I related to, and was horrified by at the same time. I highly recommend this book.

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