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The Middlesteins Hardcover – 23 Oct 2012

3.6 out of 5 stars 47 customer reviews

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Hardcover, 23 Oct 2012
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Product details

  • Hardcover: 273 pages
  • Publisher: Grand Central Publishing; 1 edition (23 Oct. 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1455507210
  • ISBN-13: 978-1455507214
  • Product Dimensions: 14.6 x 2.5 x 22.2 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (47 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 2,020,780 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description


The Middlesteins had me from its very first pages (Jonathan Franzen)

Family ties are anything but simple, and the joy of this book lies in Attenberg's merciless, tender, often brilliantly funny peeling back of the layers of history. Sublime. (Kate Saunders Daily Mail)

Flows like double cream ... Like the best culinary confections, Attenberg's prose is complex, bitter as well as tender (Sunday Telegraph)

Blazing, ferocious and greathearted ... The Middlesteins will blow you away (Lauren Groff)

Attenberg makes her characters' thoughts - Richard and Benny in particular - seem utterly real, and her wry, observational humor often hits sideways rather than head-on ... [A] wonderfully messy and layered family portrait (Kirkus)

The Middlesteins, the novel, is great literature: warm, tragic, funny and deeply, complexly, entirely human. (Stefan Merrill Block)

This gem of a book is swift, moving and brutally honest, but it has a family-centric moral at its heart: Without family, we are nothing. (New York Post)

Attenberg is superb at mocking the cliches of middle-class life by giving them the slightest turn to make people suddenly real and wholly sympathetic. (Washington Post)

Attenberg evokes memorable moments of authentic sadness and tenderness while thoughtfully and comically examining the question of what we inherit from our families. In the case of the Middlesteins, it is many things, including their sometimes-enduring love for each other. (San Fransisco Chronicle)

Edie pulses with life no matter how close she seems to dying, and her character is emblematic of the tough compassion Attenberg exhibits throughout the novel. (Chicago Tribue)

The Middlesteins is a marvel. (Molly Ringwald)

The Middlesteins is an absolute pleasure. (Francesca Segal)

Attenberg has the Tolstoyan gift for creating life on the page. Sometimes all she needs to capture a soul is a couple of sentences. But the pleasure she takes in these people goes beyond compassion...When Attenberg shows us the world through their eyes, they're not just interesting and sympathetic; they're a treat to be with. (Business Week)

A wonderfully messy and layered family portrait. (Publishers Weekly)

The Middlesteins is a tender, sad and funny look at a family and their mother. In fact, it's so readable, it's practically edible. (NPR)

Throughout this poignant novel, the characters wrestle with two defining questions: What do we owe each other after a life together? What do we owe ourselves? (O Magazine)

The Middlesteins masterfully reveals the emotional landscape of one family's unusual connections and disconnections - and allows the hope that different connections may take place. Just another quirky family story? Anything but. (Shelf Awareness)

Kinetic with hilarity and anguish, romance and fury, Attenberg's rapidly consumed yet nourishing novel anatomizes our insatiable hunger for love, meaning, and hope. (Booklist)

Jami Attenberg has a gift for making you sympathize with each and every one of her characters. The result is a rich family portrait that's sometimes heartbreaking, sometimes hilarious, and gripping all the way through. The Middlesteins are every bit as complex and contradictory as your family, or mine. I'm still thinking about them long after I turned the final page. (J. Courtney Sullivan)

I couldn't help absolutely devouring The Middlesteins. This smorgasbord of a book about food, family, love, sex, and loss is like the Jewish The Corrections, yet menschier and with a heart-and it's hilarious! Also, it made me add more cinnamon to a pie I was baking. You'll understand why once you read it. (Jenna Blum)

The Middlesteins is a truly original American novel, at once topical and universally timeless. Jami Attenberg has created a Midwestern Jewish family who are quintessentially familiar but fiercely, mordantly idiosyncratic. This novel will make you laugh, cry, cringe in recognition, and crave lamb-cumin noodles. This is a stunningly wonderful book. (Kate Christensen)

A comedy of manners, its dark moments alleviated by small epiphanies and snatched moments of joy (Jewish Chronicle)

Attenberg writes well, with economy and a welcome lack of sentimentality (Financial Times)

Funny, eccentric ... warm and profound (Red)

Moving, hilarious (Observer)

This epic tale of marriage, family and addiction is full of humour and heart (Good Housekeeping)

Superb ... a great storyteller (Evening Standard)

A complex confection, bittersweet and tender (Sunday Telegraph 2013-09-22)

Superb ... Attenberg is a great storyteller (Scotsman 2013-10-18) --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Book Description

A moving, hilarious, and deeply perceptive novel of universal themes: family, love and greed. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

3.6 out of 5 stars
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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
Jami Attenberg's new novel, "The Middlesteins", has already garnered so many well-written and perceptive reviews on Amazon/US that I don't think I can add much. But I did want to give it five stars and keep the rating up. Attenberg's book is a look, in part, at what makes people eat. Filling up the emptiness inside with massive amounts of food is one reason, but so is the thought of food as a tool of control over others.

The Middlesteins, parents Richard and Edie, children Robin and Benny, and grandchildren Emily and Josh, live in Chicago and its northwest suburbs. Various people are in the Middlestein universe but Edie is the glue that holds the family together. She has has a larger-than-life personality as well as a voracious appetite for food. After 40 years of marriage and with many physical ailments that can be traced directly to her appetite, her husband Richard admits he cannot live with her anymore and leaves her. The separation tears apart a family already made up of fragile personal alliances. Their children both understand their father's position in an impersonal way, but can't countenance the decision on a personal level. The year of Richard and Edie's separation also has many other pivotal events, like the twins' bat and bar mitzvah, and Robin moving from friendship to romance with her friend, Daniel.

What makes the Middlestein family "tick" can be directly traced to Edie's over eating. Everyone is consumed by the food Edie consumes, and fat or think, weight is the on-going issue in the family. Eating at Edie's favorite Chinese restaurant by members of her family can be viewed by the sizes of the portions consumed.

Jami Attenberg is an excellent writer and does what few novelists do and that is they sort of "telegraph" future plot points in advance.
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By L. H. Healy TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on 16 April 2014
Format: Paperback Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
'When she was engaged, she could make anything happen. When she was sad, and she had been so much lately, she could do nothing but eat.'

A moving, tender and sad story of a family deeply worried about matriarch Edie who is eating herself to death and won't stop. It is a touching portrayal of the situation, with daughter Robin, son Benny and his wife Rachelle, who are trying to manage their own lives and feel the need to help their mother too, and deal with the fact that their father has left their mother whilst she is in a bad way. As well as the children and daughter in law, we see glimpses of Edie's past, her parents, and there are also chapters following what husband Richard is up to.

It’s a fairly short novel, which I liked in one way, yet as I found myself drawn into the story, I also found myself wondering about getting to know them all a bit more than the extent of the pages would allow. I liked how the author changed viewpoints and played with the narrative, and she also sneaked in some future details which was interesting.

It's a sad and true fact that many people turn to food as a comfort and an escape, and don't realise how bad the reliance is until the situation has become very bad sometimes. Jami Attenberg takes this modern day issue and has written a very readable, insightful, honest, at times heartbreaking novel around it, with a formidable woman in Edie, one who is interesting to get to know, and who evidently isn't going to be easy to help.
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By Bantam Dave TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on 18 Nov. 2013
Format: Paperback Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Edie Middlestein is an unpleasant woman who just happens to be eating herself into an early grave, and there is nothing that anybody can say that will stop her. Her husband Richard, who has too often been the main recipient of her unpleasantness, decides to leave her rather than watch her slowly kill herself. Who can blame him? In the Middlestein family it seems like everybody does, as even his previously loving teenage grandchildren turn against him. That, in nutshell, is the story of this book. Not much else happens so there is probably enough material to make a decent enough short story or a novella; unfortunately The Middlesteins is not a short story, it is a 270 page book, a tedious 270 page book at that.

It soon became clear that The Middlesteins wasn't to my taste and under normal circumstances I would have given up on it after the first few chapters but, perhaps taking too much of the rave critical reviews, I always thought that it was bound to improve. It didn't. I would therefore suggest to anybody thinking of reading The Middlesteins that if they don't like it after 50 pages they should call it a day, because they almost certainly won't like it after 270 pages either.
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Format: Paperback Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
I loved this book which explores the paradox of the desire to nourish our relatives and the adverse effects that can arise when this is done to excess. At the centre of the story is 60 year old Edie who has been retired from her work in a Chicago law firm because of her excessive weight. Edie is literally eating herself to death, suffering from severe diabetes and other related illnesses. Retirement has not brought her any sense of needing to get a grip on her eating habits, but rather the opposite: increased opportunities to gorge herself on sandwiches, crisps and biscuits. Soon she is a regular customer at a nearby Chinese restaurant, compounding her problem and her rapidly expanding girth leads her husband to file for divorce.

This situation provides the author Jamie Attenberg with an opportunity to explore the various lives of this Jewish suburban family, which he does to spectacularly entertaining effect. For Edie may be the pivot of this story, but the other family members are equally interesting characters and Attenberg provides a wealth of fascinating topics as the family and those around them go through various episodes of a both comic and tragic nature.

Attenburg has created a tour de force of an evocation of a troubled Jewish family. I loved the way that the situation they find themselves in is explored through the individual voices of each family member and I cannot think of a book which has given me such a varied reading experience. A fantastic novel well worth it's many 5 star reviews.
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