Book Review: The Middlesteins

February 8, 2013 audio Go, audiobook, book review, divorce, grown children., Jami Attenberg, Jewsih culture, overweight 2

Written by: Jami Attenberg

Narrated by: Molly Ringwald

Published by: Audio Go/ Grand Central Publishing October 2012

Length: 6 hours and 56 minutes/ 288 pages

Source: Purchased from Audible

From the Publisher:
For more than thirty years, Edie and Richard Middlestein shared a solid family life together: two children, a nice house in the Chicago suburbs, ample employment, generous friends. 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?

My Thoughts:
This book was much more than I thought it would be. While I knew the whole family was concerned about Edie and how much she ate, and how much she weighed I had no idea how skillfully Jami Attenberg would write about this family. Their family is like many of ours, and there is love, compassion, concern, and some distaste.  Richard leaving was not just sad, it was as if he threw his hands up in the air and said I’m done. His dating life was interesting, but finding happiness wasn’t as simple as he thought.

I wasn’t sure I cared much at all for Benny and his wife Rachelle, they were so messed up in their thinking of their kids, and his pot smoking, they tried to help Edie from a distance more or less.  Robin was sincere in in love and concern for her mother.  She is surprised when she learns about her mother’s caring friends, the people in a little Chinese restaurant that are so kind and pleased with Edie’s love of food. 

I had read some controversy over  the choice of Molly Ringwald as the narrator, complaining of her mispronunciation of many Yiddish terms, and instability to carry off a Chicago Jew accent.  What is that?  I know all kinds of Jews, and accent is regional.  I didn’t find any major flaws, and I thought the pacing and inflection was very good.  

The book made me laugh and consider my own weight and if it impacts my family. In the end I cried a bit for the sadness in Richard, and in Edie’s children. Such a good read!! I’ve given this a 4 out of 5 stars, I really liked it.  A very short read, but I recommend it to anyone who enjoyed a good family drama. You can learn more about Jami Attenberg on her website.

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