"Jami Attenberg's The Middlesteins is as smart as it is bighearted. It's a grand, comic, compassionate novel about all of us that we'll be talking about for years to come."—Cheryl Strayed
Edie Middlestein has never been thin. But in recent years she has eaten herself into life-threatening obesity, bingeing at fast food chains and Chinese buffets despite a diabetes diagnosis and multiple warnings from doctors. Tired of watching her "killing herself, and taking him with her piece by piece," Richard, Edie's husband of nearly 40 years, walks out on his incessantly nitpicking wife, throwing the Midwestern family at the center of The Middlesteins into turmoil. With an expansive heart and sly wit, Jami Attenberg explores the family's attempts to save Edie from herself. Benny, Edie's conflict-averse son, is going bald from the stress of it all, while his high-strung wife makes a mission of overhauling her mother-in-law's unhealthy lifestyle. (Forced walks around a track do not go well.) The Middlesteins' schoolteacher daughter, Robin, is pushed "over the edge toward something close to hatred, or at least the dissolution of love," by her father's leaving. Meanwhile, Richard savors the pleasures of online dating, only "in the quietest moments in the mornings" suffering guilt for abandoning his marriage. As for Edie, she finds romance of her own with Mr. Song—the widowed chef at the Golden Unicorn, who appreciates her raucous humor and zealous enjoyment of his cooking—despite wallowing bitterly in memories of her ex. Throughout this poignant novel, the characters wrestle with two defining questions: What do we owe each other after a life together? What do we owe ourselves?
— Abbe Wright