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*Starred Review* The Middlesteins, a Jewish family of strong temperaments and large dysfunctions, living in the middle of the country in Chicago and its suburbs, revolve around Edie, a woman of gargantuan appetites. Attenberg (The Melting Season, 2010) marshals her gift for mordant yet compassionate comedy to chart Edie's rise and fall in sync with her ever-ballooning weight. Smart, generous, and voracious in every way, Edie is a lawyer who loves food and work more than her pharmacist husband. Her daughter, Robin, a private-school history teacher, is anxious and reclusive. Edie's even-keeled, pot-smoking son, Benny, is married to Edie's opposite, petite and disciplined Rachelle, an ambitious stay-at-home mother of twins. After Edie loses her job and rolls past the 300-pound mark, she becomes a medical crisis waiting to happen. Finally galvanized into action, her in-denial family is both helpful and destructive, each effort and failure revealing yet another dimension of inherited suffering. A flawless omnicient narrator, Attenberg even illuminates the life of the man who owns foodaholic Edie's favorite Chinese restaurant while executing perfect flashbacks and flash-forwards and subtly salting this irresistible family portrait with piquant social commentary. Kinetic with hilarity and anguish, romance and fury, Attenberg's rapidly consumed yet nourishing novel anatomizes our insatiable hunger for love, meaning, and hope.--Seaman, Donna Copyright 2010 Booklist
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Edie Middlestein is digging her grave with her teeth, as the saying goes. Previously a successful Chicago attorney, Edie has sought comfort in food all her life; she craves fattening treats the way an alcoholic craves booze. Now that she is over 60 and over 300 pounds, her partners have pretty much forced early retirement on her. Edie is also facing a second surgery on her legs. Her husband, Richard, has had enough. He leaves his wife after nearly 40 years of marriage, to the shock of their easygoing son, Benny, and the anger of their difficult daughter, Robin. Despite this sad scenario, Attenberg (The Kept Man) finds ample comic moments in this wry tale about an unraveling marriage. She has a great ear for dialog, and the novel is perfectly paced. Her characters are all believable, if not always sympathetic, though Edie's romance with a Chinese restaurant owner seems improbable. VERDICT Attenberg seamlessly weaves comedy and tragedy in this warm and engaging family saga of love and loss.-Leslie Patterson, Rehoboth, MA (c) Copyright 2012. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
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A panoply of neurotic characters fills Attenberg's multigenerational novel about a Midwestern Jewish family. Shifting points of view tell the story of the breakup and aftermath of Edie and Richard Middlestein's nearly 40-year marriage as Edie slowly eats herself to death. Richard and his brilliant but demanding and ever larger wife raised two children. Robin is intense and hostile; Benny lives an idyll with his wife, Rachelle, in the Chicago suburbs, sharing a joint after putting their twins to bed at night. Much of Rachelle's time is spent assuring that the twins' b'nai mitzvah extravaganza goes off without a hitch. When complications surrounding Edie's diabetes precipitate Richard's filing for divorce, the already tightly wound Rachelle becomes obsessed with the family's physical and moral health. Soon the affable Benny's hair is falling out in clumps. Attenberg (Instant Love) makes her characters' thoughts-Richard and Benny in particular-seem utterly real, and her wry, observational humor often hits sideways rather than head-on. Edie's overeating, described with great sensuality, will resonate, with only the obstreperousness of all three generations of Middlestein women (granddaughter Emily included) marring this wonderfully messy and layered family portrait. Agent: Douglas Stewart, Sterling Lord Literistic. (Oct. 23) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.