It all makes sense now why there were egg rolls served at Jami Attenberg's book parties for The Middlesteins. The book should come with a special sticker warning that food cravings lie ahead. I suppose the fun, adorable cover art with milkshakes, burgers and fries kind of counts. As you might suspect, The Middlesteins is a book that deals with food issues, specifically the way the Middlestein family contracts and reacts when the obese matriarch’s health has become so poor it is clear she is slowly killing herself. Edie Middlestein has always loved food, to the extreme. Now in her sixties her children, husband and grandchildren are mortified that not even multiple health related surgeries have inspired her to take better care of herself. Edie is literally eating herself into the grave.
This was one of those books where I wanted to cup the desires and wishes of each of the characters in the palm of my hand for safekeeping because they felt so fragile. What really struck me about The Middlesteins is that even with a topic as hopeless and dark as killing oneself through food there are moments of clarity and promise for the characters—the reader has the chance to peek through the curtains at brighter moments ahead.
I think we can all relate to Edie, who found the thing she loved most and couldn’t stop herself from seeking it out at every opportunity. She overate, but she did it with gusto. Isn’t still having an appetite for gusto the point of living anyway? The fallout from using food as a void filler resulted in a scramble within the Middlestein family to choose sides and develop action items, all out of a fierce love for Edie. My favorite quote from the book was through the eyes of Edie’s lifelong friends: “Everyone agreed that Edie was a tough woman to love, though she was worth loving.”
This book has my wholehearted recommendation, please go out and buy it so we can talk about it together, stat. Zero calories and saccharine free.