The Middlesteins.

Author:Attenberg, Jami
Position:Children's review - Book review

By Jami Attenberg

Jami Attenberg is the author of Instant Love (2006), a collection of linked short stories; The Kept Man (2008); and The Melting Season (2010).


THE STORY: Edie Middlestein, 60 years old and 350 pounds, is literally eating herself to death. She counts among her ailments diabetes, leg problems, a bad heart, and, not least, a crippling family dysfunction. When her husband of 30-plus years decides he's had enough and leaves, Edie leaves her children and grandchildren to deal with the fallout disrupting their comfortable suburban Chicago lives. Her daughter, a schoolteacher, tries to avenge her father's betrayal, while her more easygoing son and his svelte wife plan their twin children's lavish b'nai mitzvah celebration. Edie turns to Chinese food for solace--and, despite her dire plight, just may find the will to live and love once again.

Grand Central Publishing. 288 pages. $24.99. ISBN: 9781455507214

NY Times Book Review ****

"Though Edie is undoubtedly at the center of this maelstrom, she is not Attenberg's only, or even primary, subject; as the novel's title suggests, the real subject here is a suburban Jewish family, and how it reacts to the disaster unfolding in its midst. ... The burning question, which Attenberg explores with patience and sensitivity, is why Edie has embarked on her self-destructive path." JULIE ORRINGER

NPR ****

"Edie's hungry heart will turn out to be her--and Richard's--undoing as a couple, but The Middlesteins leavens the minor tragedy of their fate with satiric social observations about, for instance, the various humiliations of the senior citizen dating scene, as well as the peculiarly high emotional burdens of modern parenthood." MAUREEN CORRIGAN

Onion AV Club ****

"Attenberg's perspective shifts emphasize the complex bonds keeping the Middlesteins from disintegrating as they take turns describing the months leading up to Edie's grandchildren's b'nai mitzvah, where the estranged couple finally meets up again. ... In this book, the promise of the nuclear family isn't enough to hold the center, but it appeals to the view that community can bind tighter than blood." ELLEN...

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