The Middlesteins by Jami Attenberg. Publisher: Grand Central Publishing (October 23, 2012). Literary fiction. Hardcover. 288 pages. ISBN: 978-1455507214
“Was her mother’s life now spent at this kitchen table, alternating between eating and grinding all the joy out of her memories?”
Author Jami Attenberg brings morbid obesity to the pages of her latest novel with compassion, dignity and humor. Readers see how it affects not only former lawyer Edie Middlestein physically but also the lives of her two children and husband. Edie’s choices: the fast food joints, her favorite Chinese food restaurant in a strip mall doing nothing but harm. No salads in her repertoire. No walking or exercise. To her, food equates love so she feeds her young children too much food and they become chubby children. Her daughter, Robin, rebels and starts running and joins the track team and moves away to Chicago. Robin and Edie have a strained relationship but they’re still mother and daughter. Her son, Benny, marries and lives nearby. She slowly pushes her husband, Richard, away. Edie is eating herself to death. Surgery after surgery required for the eating-related medical conditions. In correlation to Edie’s weight gain, her family transforms. Benny’s wife Rachelle puts her family on a lean diet of brown rice, lean fish, and greens. She makes Edie walk with her. Robin rarely returns home to visit though only 45 minute away in Chicago. She once respected her smart mother. Richard begins to date and draws up divorce papers. The Middlesteins embraces what simultaneously brings a family together and pushes a family apart. Filled with beautifully crafted prose, I found myself tearing through this novel caught up in the honest, compelling human drama.
FTC Disclosure: I received this book for review from the publisher.