Sunday, May 26, 2013

The Middlesteins

Title:  The Middlesteins
Author:  Jami Attenberg
Publication Information:  Simon & Schuster. 2013. 294 pages.

Book Source:  I read this book as this month's selection for my local book club.

Favorite Quote:  "Food was made of love, and love was made of food."

The Middlesteins takes on the tough issues of obesity. The obese person - who they are, how they got to this point, why they got to this point, and to what extent their obesity defines them. It also looks at the the responsibility of those around them, the effect on those around them, and the societal stigma of obesity.

It does all of this through the story of one family. Edie Middlestein is a lawyer, a mother, a grandmother, a wife, and also an obese person. She suffers from numerous health issues because of her extreme obesity. Richard Middlestein is her husband, who walks away and abandons her. Robin and Benny are Edie's children, who attempt to cope with their mother's illness and their father desertion. Rachelle, Benny's wife, tries to help in her own way. Emily and Josh are Benny's children.

The book tells the story from these different perspectives enabling the reader to see the impact Edie's life has on those around her and correspondingly the impact they have on her. Unfortunately, the book does not really develop the characters. Each one represents one reaction consistently throughout the book rather than the complex family relationships - interesting even when dysfunctional as they clearly are in this family.

The story almost becomes a caricature. Edie is the fat girl. Rachelle becomes single-mindedly focused on keeping her family healthy. Robin is the angry young woman. Richard is the self-centered husband chasing something that may or may not exist. Emily and Josh are young teens wanting to fit in.

The issue tackled is an important one and an emotionally charged one. Unfortunately, this books ends up eliciting more of a comic reaction and even that not in a pleasant way.

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