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Extended Audio Sample The Middlesteins: A Novel Audiobook, by Jami Attenberg Click for printable size audiobook cover
3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 3.00 (5,669 ratings) (rate this audio book) Author: Jami Attenberg Narrator: Molly Ringwald Publisher: Hachette Book Group Format: Unabridged Audiobook Delivery: Instant Download Audio Length: Release Date: October 2012 ISBN: 9781611136203
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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.

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Quotes & Awards

  • 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

  • Selected for the November 2012 Indie Next List
  • A Great Lakes Great Reads Pick for Fall 2012
  • A Kirkus Reviews “New and Notable Title”, October 2012
  • A New York Times Bestseller
  • A 2012 eMusic Best Audiobook of the Year
  • A 2012 Los Angeles Times Book Prize Nominee for Fiction

Listener Opinions

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Jean Godwin Carroll | 2/12/2014

    " A tale of a dysfunctional family that revolves around a mother's obesity. The story is told from the point of view of all the surrounding characters. Although the mother is killing herself with food, you could really substitute any addiction and it's impact on the addict's family members. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Sandi Banks | 2/12/2014

    " It was well written family story that focused on several members of a family dealing with a difficult situation. Edie, the mother and a strong character had a major eating disorder. Her husband left her after 40 years of marriage because he could no longer deal with her problems. Her children and other family try to deal with the situation and their own problems. The book dealt with the family problems with empathy. "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Elise Traversa | 2/10/2014

    " Why do people keep writing books about completely unlikable characters and families? The main character is eating herself to death because she likes to eat and it makes her feel good... and we are supposed to feel sorry for her? Everyone struggles with self-control in some way, so how is this the premise to a book, and why did I pick it up in the first place? Somehow Jami Attenberg thinks that modern families are made up of potheads, alcoholic relationship-phobes, people eating themselves to death, health-nuts, and pushover wet-blankets. The "genuine" family premise drives me nuts- authors write about miserable people then get praise for being so "real". Definitely not worth reading. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Lynne | 2/3/2014

    " Yes, loved it. Great characters, really good writing. Wish it had been longer: high praise. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Sue | 2/3/2014

    " So far this is a very good book and it really makes me stop and think about a certain issue that some of us have. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Audrey Cooper | 2/1/2014

    " i thoroughly enjoyed this book. the family dynamics are quite frightening in that there are so many parallels to all our lives. there are some funny segments in the book, but overall it makes us realize that things are not what they seem and people are not always what they seem, especially family members. It is very thought-provoking and I do recommend it. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Patricia | 1/30/2014

    " I love books about dysfunctional ethnic families and what they will tolerate and take care of their family members who are on the very edge of harming themselves. In this book, Wife/Mother/ Grandmother Edie only feels full when eating enormous amounts of food and has become enormous. Her husband slinks off to his own apartment and makes attempts at dating, her daughter drinks a little and takes solace in her neighbor her son smokes a little dope every night on the porch and asks his wife to talk to his mother. We hear the daily trials that all the family members suffer humorously through the voice of an omnipresent narrator. The grand finale at the twins B'NAI makes me wish I could have attended. This book would make a fun movie. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Joshua | 1/6/2014

    " My lovely pal Jami Attenberg has written a masterpiece. This is a perfect book! "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Jenny | 11/11/2013

    " Fun, quick read... Interesting female characters. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Cecilia | 8/2/2013

    " A family torn apart from within itself. Angry and resentful. But the want "need "of love is so strong. Heartbreaking tale. If a happy ending is found for this family it come from an unlikely combination, and is a small yet powerful. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Mary | 7/15/2013

    " I wasn't sure about this book at first, but I really enjoyed it. Especially telling is the way that this book mimics real life - it's composed of little inexplicable moments of connection & disconnection. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Lynda | 6/23/2013

    " Wonderful story. The characters jumped off the page. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Janet | 6/12/2013

    " Pretty good book, reminiscent of Jonathan Franzen. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Marcia | 6/1/2013

    " Food, family, forgiveness, and failure. So interesting, so well written... It made me both hungry and sad. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Chanin | 5/1/2013

    " Took me a very long time to finish. I thought it was pretty sad and just had a hard time getting through it. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Abby Jean | 4/22/2013

    " good, absorbing, even if the end seemed a bit abrupt. some of the character descriptions are piercingly resonant. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Lori Nelson | 3/9/2013

    " People I'd like to know - what more do I need to say? "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Theresa Gassler | 11/15/2012

    " This Book was super. Novel about a Jewish family in the Midwest but very dysfunctional. It is up for an LA Times book prize for novels. Would make a superb indie film. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Mona | 10/13/2012

    " Interesting portrait of Jewish family in Chicago. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Terry Lucas | 10/8/2012

    " Sad people in a sad family but I could not stop reading... "

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About the Author

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.

About the Narrator

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.