Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Book Review: "The Middlesteins" by Jamie Attenberg

The Middlesteins Jami Attenberg
Published: October 23, 2012
ISBN-10: 1455507202
Genre: Contemporary Fiction
Source: Goodreads First Reads Giveaway
Recommended for readers who are willing to be uncomfortable

For more than thirty years, Edie and Richard Middlestein shared a solid family life together in the suburbs of Chicago. 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 easy-going, 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?

My Thoughts:
If I had to sum up this book in two words, I would say unflinchingly honest.  Attenberg holds nothing back in creating the Middlestein family.  Each chapter is narrated by a different character, which works well in this book.  Everything in the book centers around the fact that Richard Middlestein has left his wife Edie, who is obese and ill.  We learn the story of their marriage and what led to Richard leaving his wife.  We also meet their adult son and daughter, as well as their son's wife.  All of these characters are flawed, but wholly human.

I really enjoyed Attenberg's writing style.  She does an interesting thing of, in the midst of talking about one thing, she jumps ahead to the future.  I found this a little strange, but not enough to distract me from the story.  While the subject matter is not light, I did find this an easy book to read.

I will say that this is not a book for everyone.  None of the Middlesteins are likable (in fact, I only found one likable character in the entire novel) and, despite Attenberg's engaging voice, this is not an "enjoyable" book.  However, if you are looking for a book to make you think and make you a bit uncomfortable, The Middlesteins might be just the book.

I received this book through a GoodReads First Reads giveaway.  I was requested, but not required, to write an honest review.  I received no other compensation for this post.

The Middlesteins
by Jami Attenberg

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