Sunday, August 18, 2013

The Middlesteins by Jami Attenberg

A Jewish American family can only look on as the mother eats herself to death

Edie Middlestein is a Midwest lawyer, as a child especially fond of her skinny immigrant father.  Always has she found comfort in food – deep soul-stilling comfort.  The problem is that her eating gets out of control, dictates her behavior, making her deathly ill, and driving away her husband in disgust.  Edie’s children, especially her daughter, cannot countenance her dad's betrayal.  But Edie still has some secrets of her own.  Not everybody is disgusted at her obesity.

The charm in this was not the “Lifetime TV” or medical aspects of this story, it was how the story was told - in bits and pieces, not straight on. The novel is constructed of small sections told from different perspectives, as well as different time periods.  I was sucked in immediately.  Nominally the novel is about a woman who can’t stop eating, but it’s actually about a Midwestern Jewish family.  It’s actually sort of about America.  Jami Attenberg is a master at storytelling.  Virtually every person encountered between the pages is sharply characterized. The Middlesteins are mixture of likeability and weakness(much like real people). 

The Middlesteins continues my streak of good books.  Although the stakes in this one felt slighter.  Perhaps because Edie Middlestein is mostly unsympathetic, prone to a grim outlook on life.



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