Tuesday, October 22, 2013

The Middlesteins by Jami Attenberg

Edie Middlestein is eating herself to death and her family is not taking it well. She, the only child of parents who could deny her nothing, had loved food all her life. From childhood through college and law school, an unhappy marriage, and motherhood, food had comforted and consoled her. By the time she is sixty, she is well over 300 pounds and her weight has cost her her job and her husband.  Richard Middlestein abandons his wife, leaving the family home and planning divorce. His decision causes his children, daughter Robin, son Bennie, and daughter-in-law Rachelle, to turn against him. They ostracize him and strive to convince Edie to lose weight. But it is not an easy task. Robin, having once been overweight herself, angrily confronts her mother about her lack of self-control.  Rachelle stalks her mother-in-law, following her from one fast food restaurant to another, horrified but unable to do anything about it. She reacts to Edie’s weight by restricting the food she serves to her husband, children and even friends, cooking inedible healthy meals. Only Bennie is able to do something practical, sitting in Edie’s kitchen all night to prevent his mother from gorging on snacks the night before surgery. But self-control comes from within and the Edie’s family, despite good (and not so good) intentions, is unable to change her destructive habits.  The MIddlesteins is a story about a dysfunctional family that is dysfunctional in its own unique way. It is told with wry humor and warm affection for the members of this imperfect family.