For more than thirty years, Edie and Richard Middlestein shared a solid family life together in the suburbs of Chicago. But now things are splintering apart, for one reason, it seems: Edie's enormous girth. She's obsessed with food--thinking about it, eating it--and if she doesn't stop, she won't have much longer to live.
When Richard abandons his wife, it is up to the next generation to take control. Robin, their schoolteacher daughter, is determined that her father pay for leaving Edie. Benny, an easy-going, pot-smoking family man, just wants to smooth things over. And Rachelle-- a whippet thin perfectionist-- is intent on saving her mother-in-law's life, but this task proves even bigger than planning her twin children's spectacular b'nai mitzvah party. Through it all, they wonder: do Edie's devastating choices rest on her shoulders alone, or are others at fault, too?
With pitch-perfect prose, huge compassion, and sly humor, Jami Attenberg has given us an epic story of marriage, family, and obsession. The Middlesteins explores the hopes and heartbreaks of new and old love, the yearnings of Midwestern America, and our devastating, fascinating preoccupation with food.
"*Starred Review* The Middlesteins, a Jewish family of strong temperaments and large dysfunctions, living in the middle of the country in Chicago and its suburbs, revolve around Edie, a woman of gargantuan appetites. Attenberg (The Melting Season, 2010) marshals her gift for mordant yet compassionate comedy to chart Edie's rise and fall in sync with her ever-ballooning weight. Smart, generous, and voracious in every way, Edie is a lawyer who loves food and work more than her pharmacist husband. Her daughter, Robin, a private-school history teacher, is anxious and reclusive. Edie's even-keeled, pot-smoking son, Benny, is married to Edie's opposite, petite and disciplined Rachelle, an ambitious stay-at-home mother of twins. After Edie loses her job and rolls past the 300-pound mark, she becomes a medical crisis waiting to happen. Finally galvanized into action, her in-denial family is both helpful and destructive, each effort and failure revealing yet another dimension of inherited suffering. A flawless omnicient narrator, Attenberg even illuminates the life of the man who owns foodaholic Edie's favorite Chinese restaurant while executing perfect flashbacks and flash-forwards and subtly salting this irresistible family portrait with piquant social commentary. Kinetic with hilarity and anguish, romance and fury, Attenberg's rapidly consumed yet nourishing novel anatomizes our insatiable hunger for love, meaning, and hope.--Seaman, Donna Copyright 2010 Booklist"
From Booklist, Copyright (c) American Library Association. Used with permission.
Publisher's Weekly Review:
"A panoply of neurotic characters fills Attenberg's multigenerational novel about a Midwestern Jewish family. Shifting points of view tell the story of the breakup and aftermath of Edie and Richard Middlestein's nearly 40-year marriage as Edie slowly eats herself to death. Richard and his brilliant but demanding and ever larger wife raised two children. Robin is intense and hostile; Benny lives an idyll with his wife, Rachelle, in the Chicago suburbs, sharing a joint after putting their twins to bed at night. Much of Rachelle's time is spent assuring that the twins' b'nai mitzvah extravaganza goes off without a hitch. When complications surrounding Edie's diabetes precipitate Richard's filing for divorce, the already tightly wound Rachelle becomes obsessed with the family's physical and moral health. Soon the affable Benny's hair is falling out in clumps. Attenberg (Instant Love) makes her characters' thoughts-Richard and Benny in particular-seem utterly real, and her wry, observational humor often hits sideways rather than head-on. Edie's overeating, described with great sensuality, will resonate, with only the obstreperousness of all three generations of Middlestein women (granddaughter Emily included) marring this wonderfully messy and layered family portrait. Agent: Douglas Stewart, Sterling Lord Literistic. (Oct. 23) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved."
(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved