The Middlesteins, by Jami Attenberg

by Jessica Anderson on December 16, 2012

in Fiction, Review Copy, Reviews

The Middlesteins

Title: The Middlesteins
Author: Jami Attenberg
Pages: 288
Originally Published: 2012
Format I Read: Kindle (NetGalley)
Publisher: Grand Central Publishing
Rating: [rating:4]


I received this book for free from the publisher. All content and opinions are my own.

The Middlesteins, Jami Attenberg’s latest novel, has been getting crazy buzz for months. I bought in. I had to read it.

It’s the story of, wait for it, the Middlestein family. The central conceit is that the matriarch, Edie, is morbidly obese and in poor health. And the rest of the family – her husband Richard, their grown children, their grandchildren, and others – reacts to this as they will.

The writing is really good. Attenberg manages to write convincingly across generations, genders, and family lines. She realistically inserts gems of wisdom and observation without veering into pedagogy. This is my one of my favorite quotes from the book:

The best men are not consistent in good – why should the worst men be consistent in evil?

It is essentially a character study, with the Middlestein family as the main character. When viewed through that prism, it is very satisfying. But I couldn’t help feeling like each of the individual characters got short shrift. The reader is given just a taste of each of these vivid and interesting characters. I was left wanting more. And so, I will eagerly await more of Attenberg’s books.

The Middlesteins, by Jami Attenberg [rating:4]

{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

Jenny December 16, 2012 at 2:12 pm

Hmmm, I always like when a book holds up to it’s hype but for me that rarely happens. :( This one sounds interesting.


Jessica December 16, 2012 at 6:42 pm

It’s true. Hype can be a bad thing. But in this case, it got me to read this one, and I’m glad.


Laurie C December 17, 2012 at 5:18 am

Oooh! This one is on the list of what I might possibly get for Christmas. Glad you liked it! I kind of missed the recent buzz on it, but then saw it mentioned again somewhere and remembered it in time to put it on the list of suggestions my husband asked for.


Jessica December 17, 2012 at 10:22 am

Yay for Christmas books! I hope you get and enjoy this one.


nomadreader December 17, 2012 at 8:17 am

I really liked this one, but I’m a sucker for a well-written character study. FYI, The Middlesteins isn’t Attenberg’s first novel (I thought it was too because I’d never heard of her before this one)–it’s actually her third. I’m looking forward to dipping into the others!


Jessica December 17, 2012 at 10:23 am

Ooh. Thank you for letting me know that it is not her first. I’ll fix that in the review. And I was very impressed with the character study here, I just wanted more of all of them!


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