For more than thirty years, Edie and Richard Middlestein shared a solid family life together in the suburbs of Chicago: two children, a nice house in the Chicago suburbs, ample employment, generous friends. But now things are splintering apartfor one reason, it seems: Edies enormous girth. Shes obsessed with foodthinking about it, eating itand if she doesnt stop, she wont 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 easygoing, pot-smoking family man, just wants to smooth things over. And Rachellea whippet thin perfectionistis intent on saving her mother-in-laws life, but this task proves even bigger than planning her twin childrens spectacular bnai mitzvah party. Through it all, they wonder: do Edies 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.
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Amazon Best Books of the Month, October 2012: At five years old, Edie already tipped 62 pounds. She’d clearly “surpassed luscious,” but how could her lioness of a mother--or her father, who’d starved all the way from Ukraine to Chicago, and so also felt “carnal, primal, about food”--resist feeding her? They all believed that “food was made of love ... and they could never deny themselves a bit of anything they desired.” So Edie indulged for decades, expanding finally to 350 pounds, discovering (when Richard, her husband of 30 years, gave up trying to stop her and moved out) that food is “a wonderful place to hide.” Her adult children’s extravagant worry--mounting with each diabetic surgery and undistracted by her grandchildren’s choreographed, chocolate fountained b’nai mitzvah preparations--do nothing to dampen Edie’s enthusiasm to consume, and Attenberg describes Edie’s meals with a sensual relish that could verge on repulsive if it didn’t so readily trigger our own desires. The same story told with less compassionate humor could have easily been distasteful, but The Middlesteins has a light, tragicomic touch that lends it unexpectedly poignant heft. –Mari MalcolmAbout the Author:
Jami Attenberg is the author of a story collection, Instant Love, and two novels, The Kept Man and The Melting Season. She has contributed essays and criticism to The New York Times, Print, Nylon, Slate, Time Out New York, BookForum, Nerve, and many other publications. A blogger since 1998, she received the Village Voice's Blog Post of the Year award for 2010. She lives in New York and is originally from Chicago.
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