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The Middlesteins: A Novel | [Jami Attenberg]

The Middlesteins: A Novel

For more than 30 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. With pitch-perfect prose, huge compassion, and sly humor, Jami Attenberg has given us an epic story of marriage, family, and obsession.
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Publisher's Summary

For more than 30 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?

With pitch-perfect prose, huge compassion, and sly humor, Jami Attenberg has given us an epic story of marriage, family, and obsession. The Middlesteins explores the hopes and heartbreaks of new and old love, the yearnings of Midwestern America, and our devastating, fascinating preoccupation with food.

©2012 Jami Attenberg (P)2012 Hachette Audio

What Members Say

Average Customer Rating

3.6 (204 )
5 star
 (34)
4 star
 (83)
3 star
 (63)
2 star
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1 star
 (10)
Overall
3.6 (176 )
5 star
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4 star
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3 star
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2 star
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1 star
 (10)
Story
3.7 (174 )
5 star
 (47)
4 star
 (65)
3 star
 (37)
2 star
 (15)
1 star
 (10)
Performance
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  •  
    Sheila M NEEDHAM, MA United States 05-12-15
    Sheila M NEEDHAM, MA United States 05-12-15 Member Since 2015
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    5
    1
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "A Read not listen"

    Although I'm a huge audio fan, I wish I read this book instead of audio. If felt like someone was reading instead of getting lost in the story that was being told.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Joan CHICAGO, IL, United States 03-27-14
    Joan CHICAGO, IL, United States 03-27-14

    I love to read. In high school I read a book a night; I was too exhausted to write the book reports!

    ratings
    REVIEWS
    12
    5
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "I felt I was a Family Member!"
    Would you recommend this book to a friend? Why or why not?

    This could have been my family. Food Food Food! The funeral scene was priceless. We had a relative who would eat all the corned beef. We had to hide it so there would be some for others. Only problem was she was the first to come and the last to leave!


    What was one of the most memorable moments of The Middlesteins?

    When the Chinese chef was preparing dinner for Eddie. He was so tender and sweet.


    What about Molly Ringwald’s performance did you like?

    I really enjoyed Ringwald's reading.


    Any additional comments?

    My mother was not as obsessive about food as Eddie, but she too was tall and went to law school. She became obese until cancer killed her.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    HRH Karen 02-25-14
    HRH Karen 02-25-14
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    9
    1
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "It's B'NAY Mitzvah, Molly. Right, Jami?"
    What disappointed you about The Middlesteins?

    Mispronunciation after mispronunciation of words that were repeated and repeated (and repeated) made me wonder if anyone had even listened to the reading prior to its release. The flattest Jewy accent plunked in seemingly at random made me shudder. Made me shudder and wonder, that is, when I might have been listening to the story but was, alas, too distracted. I think it's not Molly's fault. Nobody told her, I suppose, and she must have figured she knew what she was doing. But it reminds me of this time a Seattle friend told me we had to go get some of this most yummy cookie thing called (phonetically) rhe-GUE-leh. When we got to the bakery it was just, you know, rugelach - pronounced with the short u and the "luh" at the end that just kind of trails off. Anyway.


    What was one of the most memorable moments of The Middlesteins?

    See above. But the story was nice and I loved some of the digressions. I loved the way food tore the family and wove in and out of the narrative. I loved the relationship between the protagonist's suitor and cooking. And I loved the opening chapter, where we learned how love and food were rendered indistinguishable.


    How could the performance have been better?

    I think I've been clear.


    You didn’t love this book... but did it have any redeeming qualities?

    I would like to have read it rather than listened to it. I think I may have really appreciated it. I did listen all the way through despite the narration. Thing is, when a author leans so heavily on integrating Yiddish and Hebrew into the text, the listener experience is just so embarrassing, like a terrible talk show interview, you want to look away.


    Any additional comments?

    Too bad.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    J. Simonton Texas, USA 06-11-13
    J. Simonton Texas, USA 06-11-13 Member Since 2012

    Fun Happens

    HELPFUL VOTES
    31
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    158
    32
    FOLLOWERS
    FOLLOWING
    1
    4
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Started out Interesting, but a Flat Story"
    Would you say that listening to this book was time well-spent? Why or why not?

    The story was just okay. I kept waiting for the really interesting part to come along and it just never did. The story is all centered around one person, but you never hear her side. You never hear her internal struggle or how she feels about all the other problems in her family. Also, everyone is so fixated on Edie that they don't see the massive problems in their own lives.


    Would you recommend The Middlesteins to your friends? Why or why not?

    No, I feel like the story is a bit flat. The book leaves you wanting more of an explanation and less of a running news story of the comings and goings of the rest of the family.
    I feel like there are many other books that are better stories about family struggles.


    Who would you have cast as narrator instead of Molly Ringwald?

    Debra Messing- she could have certainly done a better job at pronouncing the Yiddish sayings and terms. I just didn't like Molly Ringwald's performance. The only part I thought she really pulled off was the pissy teenager personality of Emily.


    Do you think The Middlesteins needs a follow-up book? Why or why not?

    I think the original book needed more wrap up. I felt like I was taken through bits of their lives at ninety miles per hour and then just wham! The book just ended, nothing was tied up at all. Maybe the author wanted the reader to decide what happens next.


    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Library United States 04-22-13
    Library United States 04-22-13 Member Since 2014
    HELPFUL VOTES
    22
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    42
    11
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    FOLLOWING
    0
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    "Just a little too short, but quite engrossing!"

    Another dysfunctional family saga, but this one is very cleverly written and even though none of the characters are particularly likable, they are all quite human and the author shows great sympathy for their struggles.

    The Middlesteins is aptly named: they are middle America, middle class, and suffering from every average American angst you can think of. The Jewish aspect is well-played and not overdone. The comedy parts are not done broadly--they are just funny. It would be a good movie, I think. It is a character based novel and the characters are complex and the author writes with pathos about them.

    The reader is excellent. My only complaint is that I felt the book could have been longer. It is sort of like a short version of a book by Jonathan Franzen. We could have understood these people more if she had another hundred pages about them.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Joe Kraus Kingston, PA, United States 03-27-13
    Joe Kraus Kingston, PA, United States 03-27-13 Member Since 2011
    HELPFUL VOTES
    22
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    43
    43
    FOLLOWERS
    FOLLOWING
    2
    1
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Intriguing Experiment that Mostly Works"
    What about Molly Ringwald’s performance did you like?

    She reads with a flat, understated tone that's pleasant but that seems to move slowly. I did start to remember every so often that this was "Molly Ringwald, the 1980s actress" -- and that got distracting -- but she was generally competent. (Although she could have used a coach to help her pronounce the occasional Yiddish word.)


    Any additional comments?

    I liked this one but didn't quite love it. Attenberg has a strong prose style, and it's got a distinct and pervasive feminine perspective; its unspoken understandings seem mostly to come from the way a woman (both the central characters and the author) see the world. It seems to me almost radical in the way it doesn't feel the need to translate for a man's sensibility.All that's really good, I think, but the plotting seemed to me a bit forced in places. That is, the story seemed to stall every once in a while, and it took something to move it forward or, once or twice worse, I lost interest in a section that seemed to me to have stalled.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Jessica 02-22-13
    Jessica 02-22-13 Member Since 2015
    HELPFUL VOTES
    56
    ratings
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    30
    18
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    3
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    Performance
    Story
    "Quick and Enjoyable"

    I don't really have a lot to say about this one. The narration was great. The story was a little sad and very touching. I'm glad I listened to it, but I don't think it will stick with me for a long time.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Lee HOUSTON, TX, United States 01-02-13
    Lee HOUSTON, TX, United States 01-02-13 Member Since 2010
    HELPFUL VOTES
    2
    ratings
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    26
    6
    FOLLOWERS
    FOLLOWING
    0
    0
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    Performance
    Story
    "Read this if you like feeling depressed"
    Who would you have cast as narrator instead of Molly Ringwald?

    Molly Ringwald read in a flat tone that reflected the flatness of the characters and of the story. The director did not tell Ms. Ringwald how to pronounce the Yiddish and Hebrew words correctly - and this was a book about Chicago Jews!


    What reaction did this book spark in you? Anger, sadness, disappointment?

    This book was the "Debbie Downer" (if you remember this skit on "Saturday Night Live") of books. The characters were depressing and there was no humor. The entire book was just character sketches. The point of view shifted from one character to another and the author gave back story for each, which halted any forward momentum and prevented this reader from becoming invested in the characters because we were often told what had happened to them rather than being a part of the action. Even the first hand action that did occur was meandering, with no clear goal for the story and no ramping up of tension. It was just a story about depressing people with depressing lives. To me, that's not a story.

    It was like paying for a ticket for a scenic train ride through rolling hills and getting a ride on a slow train in an underground subway with banal signs inside the cabin and rare glimpses of the various characters painted on the tunnel walls that pass by you too quickly.


    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Lisbeth Louisville, KY, United States 12-19-12
    Lisbeth Louisville, KY, United States 12-19-12 Member Since 2011

    Ce n'est pas grave!

    HELPFUL VOTES
    18
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    42
    30
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    1
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    Performance
    Story
    "Okay"

    This "listen" was okay, neither great nor memorable. I don't think the writing style was so great for an audio and I may have liked reading it better.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Gail jackson, NJ, United States 05-31-14
    Gail jackson, NJ, United States 05-31-14 Member Since 2011
    HELPFUL VOTES
    52
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    53
    43
    FOLLOWERS
    FOLLOWING
    5
    0
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Oy Vey"

    I was hopeful based on the subject matter. Unfortunately, this was a wasted opportunity to explore the deeper side of an issue ... obesity. There is ZERO glimpse into the why of this compulsive over eater's mind. Simply the effects on the oh so superficial family members. There is not a likable character in this book, mostly because there's no character development or depth of story line. I'd pass.

    0 of 1 people found this review helpful

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