Oh, The Middlesteins. What could have easily been a story of horrendous and unsympathetic characters giving up on one another is instead a story of empathy, compassion, and love. While Edie Middlestein has struggled with food and weight all her life, after two surgeries and the threat of a bypass looming, her children are fed up. (That pun was unnecessary.)
I thought Edie was going to be the villain here. I thought this would be a novel about the consequences of one’s actions and a lack of self control. But that’s not the story Jami Attenberg tells on these pages. Edie is sick, her children say. She is sick because of the food she has put into her body, and she is sick because she can’t stop eating. When Edie’s husband leaves, the children side with her unquestionably. Richard has left a sick woman for selfish reasons, they think. There’s no excuse for that. But in a wonderfully written novel brimming with empathy, even the seemingly wicked Richard Middlestein gets a chance to explain himself to the reader.
This novel is now out in paperback. If you haven’t read it yet, you should probably do that today. You will be glad you did.