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A moving, hilarious, and deeply perceptive novel of universal themes: family, love and greed.
Jami Attenberg is the author of The Middlesteins, which was a finalist for the Los Angeles Times Book Prize for Fiction and was published in nine countries; a story collection, Instant Love; and the novels The Kept Man and The Melting Season. She lives in Brooklyn, New York. Visit her at www.jamiattenberg.com and follow her @jamiattenberg.
Edie Middlestein is digging her grave with her teeth, as the saying goes. Previously a successful Chicago attorney, Edie has sought comfort in food all her life; she craves fattening treats the way an alcoholic craves booze. Now that she is over 60 and over 300 pounds, her partners have pretty much forced early retirement on her. Edie is also facing a second surgery on her legs. Her husband, Richard, has had enough. He leaves his wife after nearly 40 years of marriage, to the shock of their easygoing son, Benny, and the anger of their difficult daughter, Robin. Despite this sad scenario, Attenberg (The Kept Man) finds ample comic moments in this wry tale about an unraveling marriage. She has a great ear for dialog, and the novel is perfectly paced. Her characters are all believable, if not always sympathetic, though Edie's romance with a Chinese restaurant owner seems improbable. VERDICT Attenberg seamlessly weaves comedy and tragedy in this warm and engaging family saga of love and loss.-Leslie Patterson, Rehoboth, MA (c) Copyright 2012. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
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. (Oct. 23) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
The Middlesteins had me from its very first pages -- Jonathan Franzen 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. -- Kate Saunders * Daily Mail * Flows like double cream ... Like the best culinary confections, Attenberg's prose is complex, bitter as well as tender * Sunday Telegraph * Blazing, ferocious and greathearted ... The Middlesteins will blow you away -- Lauren Groff Attenberg makes her characters' thoughts - Richard and Benny in particular - seem utterly real, and her wry, observational humor often hits sideways rather than head-on ... [A] wonderfully messy and layered family portrait * Kirkus * The Middlesteins, the novel, is great literature: warm, tragic, funny and deeply, complexly, entirely human. -- Stefan Merrill Block 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. * New York 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. * Washington Post * 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. * San Fransisco Chronicle * 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. * Chicago Tribue * The Middlesteins is a marvel. * Molly Ringwald * The Middlesteins is an absolute pleasure. * Francesca Segal * 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. * Business Week * A wonderfully messy and layered family portrait. * Publishers Weekly * The Middlesteins is a tender, sad and funny look at a family and their mother. In fact, it's so readable, it's practically edible. * NPR * Throughout this poignant novel, the characters wrestle with two defining questions: What do we owe each other after a life together? What do we owe ourselves? * O Magazine * 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. * Shelf Awareness * Kinetic with hilarity and anguish, romance and fury, Attenberg's rapidly consumed yet nourishing novel anatomizes our insatiable hunger for love, meaning, and hope. * Booklist * 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. * J. Courtney Sullivan * I couldn't help absolutely devouring The Middlesteins. This smorgasbord of a book about food, family, love, sex, and loss is like the Jewish The Corrections, yet menschier and with a heart-and it's hilarious! Also, it made me add more cinnamon to a pie I was baking. You'll understand why once you read it. * Jenna Blum * 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. * Kate Christensen * A comedy of manners, its dark moments alleviated by small epiphanies and snatched moments of joy * Jewish Chronicle * Attenberg writes well, with economy and a welcome lack of sentimentality * Financial Times * Funny, eccentric ... warm and profound * Red * Moving, hilarious * Observer * This epic tale of marriage, family and addiction is full of humour and heart * Good Housekeeping * Superb ... a great storyteller * Evening Standard * A complex confection, bittersweet and tender * Sunday Telegraph * Superb ... Attenberg is a great storyteller * Scotsman *