01 January 2013

My Thoughts on Jami Attenberg, The Middlesteins

Click on the image to buy it at Powell's
I had a bunch of awesome quotes from the Middlesteins marked in my e-galley, but unfortunately, I took too long to write my review, and the galley expired.  So, I am beginning without a quote from which to launch.  The Middlesteins is getting much love from around the blogosphere, and basically, I am just adding my voice to the chorus.  The book was a lot of fun.  I was always excited to pick it up, and the pages flew by.

This is a family tragicomic, at the center of which is Edie Middlestein, a woman in late middle age, with two grown children, whose husband of thirty years has just left her.  Edie is also morbidly obese. There are a number of point of view narrators in the book, which also zigzags back and forth in time.  There is Edie, of course, her soon-to-be-ex-husband Richard, their son and daughter and daughter-in-law (Benny, Robin and Rachelle) and a surprise voice at the end.  The action of the novel takes place mostly as the family prepares for Benny and Rachelle's twin son and daughter's b'nai mitzvah, as Edie prepares for a bypass surgery in her leg, and as Richard and Edie's thirty year union dissolves. 

There are a few dramatic moments throughout the book, but mostly it is about the characters and how the interact with one another during a time that is difficult, maddening and delicate.   Attenberg has a sense of humor and many moments in the book have a tone-lightening effect in a story that is, otherwise, quite serious.  My main criticism of the book is that it may not be quite serious enough.  I don't usually say things like this, but I wanted the book to have a stronger moral center, to delve deeper into the ethics of Richard's decision to leave Edie and to show the reader more of the reactions from the other characters.   The book could have been twice the length that it is, which is both compliment and critique. I think that means that I fall somewhere in the middle as far as my recommendation goes.

Title: The Middlesteins
Author: Jami Attenberg
Publisher: Grand Central Publishing
Date: 2012
Genre:Literary Fiction

288  pages.
Where I got it: From the publisher via Netgalley
Challenges: None

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