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The Middlesteins:

A Novel

A New York Times Bestseller

A 2012 Los Angeles Times Book Prize Nominee for Fiction

A Great Lakes Great Reads Pick for Fall 2012

Selected for the November 2012 Indie Next List

A 2012 eMusic Best Audiobook of the Year

A Kirkus Reviews “New and Notable Title”, October 2012

For more than thirty years, Edie and Richard Middlestein shared a solid family life together in the suburbs of Chicago. But now things are splintering apart, for one reason, it seems: Edie’s enormous girth. She’s obsessed with food—thinking about it, eating it—and if she doesn’t stop, she won’t have much longer to live.

When Richard abandons his wife, it is up to the next generation to take control. Robin, their schoolteacher daughter, is determined to see her father pay for leaving Edie. Benny, an easy-going, pot-smoking family man, just wants to smooth things over. And Rachelle, a whippet-thin perfectionist is intent on saving her mother-in-law’s life, but this task proves even bigger than planning her twin children’s spectacular b’nai mitzvah party. Through it all, they wonder: do Edie’s devastating choices rest on her shoulders alone, or are others at fault, too?

With pitch-perfect prose, huge compassion, and sly humor, Jami Attenberg has given us an epic story of marriage, family, and obsession. The Middlesteins explores the hopes and heartbreaks of new and old love, the yearnings of Midwestern America, and our devastating, fascinating preoccupation with food.

Editorial Reviews

The Middlesteins had me from its very first pages, but it wasn’t until its final pages that I fully appreciated the range of Attenberg’s sympathy and the artistry of her storytelling.”

Jonathan Franzen

“I couldn’t help absolutely devouring The Middlesteins. This smorgasbord of a book about food, family, love, sex, and loss is like the Jewish The Corrections, yet menschier and with a heart—and it’s hilarious!”

Jenna Blum, New York Times bestselling author

“Jami Attenberg has written a brilliant novel in The Middlesteins, as blazing, ferocious, and great-hearted as anything I’ve read. For anyone who has ever known heartbreak, the terrible love of a family, or a passion so deep you think it’ll kill you, The Middlesteins will blow you away.”

Lauren Groff, New York Times bestselling author

“Jami Attenberg has a gift for making you sympathize with each and every one of her characters. The result is a rich family portrait that’s sometimes heartbreaking, sometimes hilarious, and gripping all the way through. The Middlesteins are every bit as complex and contradictory as your family or mine. I’m still thinking about them long after I turned the final page.”

J. Courtney Sullivan, New York Times bestselling author

“Expansive heart and sly wit…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?”

O, The Oprah Magazine

“Jami Attenberg’s comic-tragic portrait of The Middlesteins, a quirky Midwestern Jewish family collapsing under burdens of betrayal, desire, and obesity, is delish.”

Vanity Fair

“Deftly comedic and acutely sensitive, Jami Attenberg confronts our profound hunger for meaning and love in The Middlesteins…This book generates disturbing, hilarious, and tender revelations.”

Kansas City Star Tribune

The Middlesteins is a truly original American novel, at once topical and universally timeless. Jami Attenberg has created a Midwestern Jewish family who are quintessentially familiar but fiercely, mordantly idiosyncratic. This novel will make you laugh, cry, cringe in recognition, and crave lamb-cumin noodles. This is a stunningly wonderful book.”

Kate Christensen, award-winning author of The Astral

“Jami Attenberg writes with startling honesty and haunting compassion about characters caught between desire and obligation. Blunt and beautifully written,The Middlesteins peels back the layers of one family’s struggle to hold together even as its members fall apart, examining the commitments and betrayals, the guilt and grievances, the wounds and recoveries. Told with great hope and humor, this is a novel about fear and forgiveness, blame and acceptance, the roles we yearn to escape, and the bonds that prove unbreakable. It’s a wonderful book.”

Aryn Kyle, award-winning author of The God of Animals

The Middlesteins, the novel, is great literature: in lucid and lustrous prose, Jami Attenberg tells a flawlessly paced, profound story that is equally intimate and universal. And the Middlesteins, the family, are great company: warm, tragic, funny, and so deeply, complexly, entirely human that I could almost swear I grew up down the street from them. I read Attenberg’s book as voraciously as Edie Middlestein downs her surreptitious feasts, and now I’m insatiable for more from this brilliant author.”

Stefan Merrill Block, author of The Storm at the Door

“Attenberg’s characters’ thoughts—Richard and Benny in particular—seem utterly real, and her wry, observational humor often hits sideways rather than head-on…A wonderfully messy and layered family portrait.”

Publishers Weekly (starred review)

“Deeply satisfying…A sharp-tongued, sweet-natured masterpiece of Jewish family life.”

Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

“An 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.”

Booklist (starred review)

“Somewhat reminiscent of the movie My Big Fat Greek Wedding…Ringwald’s crisp voice brings listeners right into the family crises with her clear, nicely paced reading…Ringwald makes slight adjustments in cadence to signal character shifts. She puts a lighthearted lilt into her voice to capture such humorous episodes as when food-obsessed Edie texts her husband that she is at a well-known Chicago hot-dog restaurant. Give this to fans of domestic fiction.”

Booklist (audio review)

“Attenberg 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…She seamlessly weaves comedy and tragedy in this warm and engaging family saga of love and loss.”

Library Journal

Author Biography

Jami Attenberg is the author of the story collection Instant Love and several novels, including The Kept Man, The Melting Season, and The Middlesteins, which was a finalist for the Los Angeles Times Book Prize. She has contributed essays and criticism to the New York Times, Real Simple, Elle, the Washington Post, and many other publications. She lives in Brooklyn.

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Reader Biography

Molly Ringwald's work in film is characterized by what the renowned New Yorker film critic Pauline Kael called her "charismatic normality." Throughout her extensive career, she has worked with such directors as Paul Mazursky, John Hughes, Cindy Sherman, and Jean-Luc Godard. Her writing has appeared in The New York Times, Parade, Esquire, and the Hartford Courant. She lives with her husband and three children in Los Angeles.

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