The Middlesteins

The Middlesteins by Jami Attenberg

Published:  2012 by Grand Central Publishing

Source:  Borrowed from the Library


The Middlesteins is a novel about a dysfunctional family, centered on the matriarch, Edie, who is essentially eating herself to death.  This has caused her husband of many years, Richard, to leave her, which has then caused their adult children, Benny and Robin, to essentially take sides.

The novel includes flashbacks to Edie’s childhood and to the time when she met and married Richard and raised her family, but the “present” setting of the book is written from the perspectives of family members.  To me, nothing specifically reveals the origins of her issues with food.  I suppose food was her only comfort, but I couldn’t determine why she couldn’t or wouldn’t seek comfort anywhere else.

Though I finished the novel (because it was fairly short – only 272 pages), I don’t know that I liked it.  Plot-wise, nothing was resolved for me; maybe that was the author’s purpose and/or I’m not smart enough to get the point of the story.  There was also a few content issues that bothered me:  Sometimes the sentences rambled on too long, stream of consciousness-like; sometimes the future of a character would be revealed during the course of one of these ramblings, to what effect I’m not clear.  And this just a personal thing, but the author continuously describes characters travelling “two towns over” or “to the next town”; the novel is set in Chicago and its Northwest suburbs, where I live, and nobody I know speaks like this — they drive to Buffalo Grove, to Winnetka, and don’t speak with those vague generalities.

I know of several people who enjoyed this book (read some positive reviews from The Washington Post  and The New Dork Review of Books ), but unfortunately I am in the minority.  I didn’t hate it, but it’s not going on my list of favorites.


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5 Responses to The Middlesteins

  1. Leeswammes says:

    What a pity it wasn’t as good as you’d hoped. The premise sounds interesting, though.

  2. zibilee says:

    I would think that with this kind of story, the author could really excel and make her characters and plot sing…turns out this one was a dud. Sorry about that!!

  3. Isi says:

    The story sounds interesting, but I like a more classical readings. I don’t like the feeling of not understand it all.

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