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The Middlesteins
Cover of The Middlesteins
The Middlesteins
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"The Middlesteins had me from its very first pages" - Jonathan Franzen

Edie and Richard have been married for over thirty years, living in the Chicago suburbs. Everyone who knew them-even their own children Robin and Benny-agreed that Edie was a tough woman to love, but no one expected Richard to walk out on her, especially not in her condition. Edie is fifty-nine years old, she weighs 300 pounds, and her doctors have told her she'll die if she doesn't stop eating.

As Richard is shut out by the family and seeks solace in the world of internet dating, Robin is dragged back from the city and forced to rebuild a relationship with her mother. Meanwhile Benny and his neurotic wife Rachelle try to take control of the situation. But have any of them stopped to think about whether Edie really wants to be saved?

Written with sly humour, warmth and great insight, The Middlesteins is a novel about what it means to be part of a family.

"The Middlesteins had me from its very first pages" - Jonathan Franzen

Edie and Richard have been married for over thirty years, living in the Chicago suburbs. Everyone who knew them-even their own children Robin and Benny-agreed that Edie was a tough woman to love, but no one expected Richard to walk out on her, especially not in her condition. Edie is fifty-nine years old, she weighs 300 pounds, and her doctors have told her she'll die if she doesn't stop eating.

As Richard is shut out by the family and seeks solace in the world of internet dating, Robin is dragged back from the city and forced to rebuild a relationship with her mother. Meanwhile Benny and his neurotic wife Rachelle try to take control of the situation. But have any of them stopped to think about whether Edie really wants to be saved?

Written with sly humour, warmth and great insight, The Middlesteins is a novel about what it means to be part of a family.

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About the Author-
  • Jami Attenberg is the New York Times bestselling author of five novels, including The Middlesteins and Saint Mazie. She has contributed essays about sex, urban life, and food to The New York Times Magazine, The Wall Street Journal, The Guardian, and Lenny Letter, among other publications. She divides her time between Brooklyn and New Orleans. Visit her online at jamiattenberg.com or follow her @jamiattenberg.
Reviews-
  • Publisher's Weekly

    Starred review from July 2, 2012
    A panoply of neurotic characters fills Attenberg’s multigenerational novel about a Midwestern Jewish family. Shifting points of view tell the story of the breakup and aftermath of Edie and Richard Middlestein’s nearly 40-year marriage as Edie slowly eats herself to death. Richard and his brilliant but demanding and ever larger wife raised two children. Robin is intense and hostile; Benny lives an idyll with his wife, Rachelle, in the Chicago suburbs, sharing a joint after putting their twins to bed at night. Much of Rachelle’s time is spent assuring that the twins’ b’nai mitzvah extravaganza goes off without a hitch. When complications surrounding Edie’s diabetes precipitate Richard’s filing for divorce, the already tightly wound Rachelle becomes obsessed with the family’s physical and moral health. Soon the affable Benny’s hair is falling out in clumps. Attenberg (Instant Love) makes her characters’ thoughts—Richard and Benny in particular—seem utterly real, and her wry, observational humor often hits sideways rather than head-on. Edie’s overeating, described with great sensuality, will resonate, with only the obstreperousness of all three generations of Middlestein women (granddaughter Emily included) marring this wonderfully messy and layered family portrait. Agent: Douglas Stewart, Sterling Lord Literistic.

  • Jonathan Franzen

    The Middlesteins had me from its very first pages

  • Kate Saunders

    Family ties are anything but simple, and the joy of this book lies in Attenberg's merciless, tender, often brilliantly funny peeling back of the layers of history. Sublime.

  • Sunday Telegraph

    Flows like double cream ... Like the best culinary confections, Attenberg's prose is complex, bitter as well as tender

  • Lauren Groff

    Blazing, ferocious and greathearted ... The Middlesteins will blow you away

  • Stefan Merrill Block

    The Middlesteins, the novel, is great literature: warm, tragic, funny and deeply, complexly, entirely human.

  • New York Post

    This gem of a book is swift, moving and brutally honest, but it has a family-centric moral at its heart: Without family, we are nothing.

  • Washington Post

    Attenberg is superb at mocking the cliches of middle-class life by giving them the slightest turn to make people suddenly real and wholly sympathetic.

  • San Fransisco Chronicle

    Attenberg evokes memorable moments of authentic sadness and tenderness while thoughtfully and comically examining the question of what we inherit from our families. In the case of the Middlesteins, it is many things, including their sometimes-enduring love for each other.

  • Chicago Tribue

    Edie pulses with life no matter how close she seems to dying, and her character is emblematic of the tough compassion Attenberg exhibits throughout the novel.

  • Molly Ringwald

    The Middlesteins is a marvel.

  • Francesca Segal

    The Middlesteins is an absolute pleasure.

  • Business Week

    Attenberg has the Tolstoyan gift for creating life on the page. Sometimes all she needs to capture a soul is a couple of sentences. But the pleasure she takes in these people goes beyond compassion...When Attenberg shows us the world through their eyes, they're not just interesting and sympathetic; they're a treat to be with.

  • Publishers Weekly

    A wonderfully messy and layered family portrait.

  • Shelf Awareness

    The Middlesteins masterfully reveals the emotional landscape of one family's unusual connections and disconnections - and allows the hope that different connections may take place. Just another quirky family story? Anything but.

  • J. Courtney Sullivan

    Jami Attenberg has a gift for making you sympathize with each and every one of her characters. The result is a rich family portrait that's sometimes heartbreaking, sometimes hilarious, and gripping all the way through. The Middlesteins are every bit as complex and contradictory as your family, or mine. I'm still thinking about them long after I turned the final page.

  • Kate Christensen

    The Middlesteins is a truly original American novel, at once topical and universally timeless. Jami Attenberg has created a Midwestern Jewish family who are quintessentially familiar but fiercely, mordantly idiosyncratic. This novel will make you laugh, cry, cringe in recognition, and crave lamb-cumin noodles. This is a stunningly wonderful book.

  • Jewish Chronicle

    A comedy of manners, its dark moments alleviated by small epiphanies and snatched moments of joy

  • Financial Times

    Attenberg writes well,...

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