Originally published January 2013
Have you read “The Middlesteins” yet? Because you should.
It’s fiction family whack—which is good for anyone who thinks their family wrote the book on crazy. At the same time, it was a kinder, gentler crazy than the group of families that make up my previous read, “Motherland.” (Also excellent, but woo-hoo extreme on the whack-o-meter.)
Edie and Richard are the matriarch and patriarch of the Middlestein clan—an upstanding Jewish family living in Chicago’s northern ‘burbs. Readers will be set straight immediately on one thing—Edie likes to eat. Always has, always will. She was taught from a very young age that food soothes, and food is indeed her friend. Robin and Benny are the Middlestein kids, all grown up with issues of their own. Robin can’t seem to commit, even when her lovely “you’re not my boyfriend” Daniel is ready to introduce her at a Northbrook seder. And Benny is a bit of a hypocrite, married to uber-health fanatic Rachelle, both fairly disgusted with Edie’s food addiction yet not at all really concerned with their joint-a-night habit.
The story centers around Richard’s decision to leave Edie and start a new life. Because, you know—he’d kinda like to have sex again. And 300+ Edie isn’t going to be able to fulfill that request if she’s dead. As the story unfolds, readers are invited to discover how Robin, Benny and Rachelle cope with the disintegration of the Middlestein marriage, what it means to them, their futures … and their time—because now, who is going to keep Edie from feeding herself to death?
Who’s going to want to read this? If you like suburban Chicago shout outs, if you like stories about dysfunctional families, if you like something bittersweet … this is a great book to pick up. It’s relatively short, so you’re not looking at a huge time commitment, and it’s a tender reminder that family is indeed family, flaws and all. There’s sure to be a scene or two that strike a reminiscent chord, whether it be pity, shame or flat-out embarrassment. We’ve all been there at least once, which is what makes it so easy to identify with one or more of the Middlesteins.