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“Just when you think you're done reading about dysfunctional American families, a novel like The Middlesteins comes along and blows you away. You will become deeply invested in the loves and longings of the eponymous, semi-chaotic Jewish clan from Chicago. There's Edie, the tough, fierce matriarch who can't stop eating; Richard, the husband who leaves her; and Robin and Benny, the adult children, distracted by troubles of their own. Attenberg proves that there is still much more left to say -- about family, heartache, and food -- and so many fresh and funny ways to say it.”
— Elizabeth Sher, Politics & Prose Books and Coffee Shop, Washington, DC
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 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 easygoing, 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.