Edie and Richard Middlestein appear to have a very happy life. They have been married for over thirty years, have a beautiful home in the suburbs and they have successful careers. They have raised two children and have been blessed two two grandchildren. They should be entering their golden years with an eye towards travel and relaxation, but their marriage is crumbling.
The passion is gone and they have been drifting apart for years. Edie, who has spent her whole life battling a weight problem, has finally started to experience serious health issues due to her obesity. Richard has met another woman who makes him feel alive and he decides to ask Edie for a divorce, only sending Edie deeper into her downward spiral.
Everyone is worried about Edie and the whole family pitches in to help her lose the weight. As Edie's problems are finally out in the open, the family starts to discover the depth of its own dysfunction, forcing all of the characters to face their personal issues.
Jami Attenberg writes a strong family drama, filled with heartbreak and fears. The biggest theme is mortality, as the family faces the serious reality of Edie dying from her obesity. It was so frustrating to witness Edie's stubbornness with her food issues. Having recently dealt with family members and their own stubbornness over their addictions, this drove me nuts to read. I wanted to reach through the pages and shake Edie.
It would seem easy to label The Middlesteins as a book about the obesity epidemic, but that's not what Attenberg has done. Attenberg has not written a story based on a hot button social issue, she has written about a family, who happens to be dealing with an obese mother. The issue doesn't trump the characters. She doesn't excuse or condone Edie's obesity, it simply is a part of her life, a life that Attenberg examines from various angles.
I came to love the Middlestein family, their warts and all. Attenberg writes them honestly and they feel very real. This story has a slice-of-life tone that I tend to favor in literature. It also has enough scandal to keep it entertaining.
I liked Attenbergs style and I look forward to reading her other novels very soon.