The Middlesteins, by Jami Attenberg
(New York: Grand Central Publishing, 2012)
"For more than thirty years, Edie and Richard Middlestein shared a solid family life together in the suburbs of Chicago -- two children, a nice house, ample employment, and generous friends. But things are splintering apart, for one reason, it seems: Edie's fixated on 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 easygoing, 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?"
"How could she not feed their daughter?"
I formally left Catholicism almost 14 years ago, and hadn't been to confession in more than a decade before that, but sometimes, childhood memories die hard. Bless me, Father, for I have sinned. It's been two months since my last blog post.
This doesn't mean I haven't been reading (though I've slacked off since New Year's, completing a whopping 2 books since the start of January); only that I haven't carved out time to blog about what I've read. That's part of a way bigger issue that merits contemplation, but for now, I think I'll just bang out a scarcely-commented log of what I've read since then.
So here goes. Loved The Middlesteins, and also loved in a quietly arrogant way that this was one I happened to stumble across and read before all the reviewers seized upon it. I think it was the NYT Book Review podcast that mentioned this one just before Thanksgiving, calling it a meditation on the complex relationships and obligatory dysfunctions that are part of every family; I'd read it as an observation on Edie's obesity being a natural outgrowth of women's/ mothers' traditional nurturing/ caregiving roles, but I don't think either view is unjustified. As to whether it hit a wee bit close to home given my own weight and emotional eating struggles over the years, well ... as I said earlier, that's a subject for another, much longer post. In the meantime, let's leave it at saying I really enjoyed the book and would recommend it highly to others.