The Middlesteins is a novel about compulsive eating: psychotic-level, obsessive-compulsive eating. It is also a comedy, though—as one must surely suspect—the humor is of a hue well beyond the blackest of patent leather. A comedy about a man who leaves his wife because she simply cannot stop eating. Some may declare the humor of such a story to be absent entirely, but the intent is clearly there.
Edie Middlestein is a middle-aged Jewish woman who must deal with diabetes, a food addiction, and a husband who decides to leave her. Richard Middlestein is a middle-aged Jewish man with a wife who watches the scale circle around past the hundred pound level three and a half times because he finally decides that enough is enough. After thirty years of marriage, the Middlesteins are facing the ugly and brutal side of aging out and drawing apart, leaving their adult offspring Robin in the unenviable and distinctly unwanted role of taking care of the ever-enlarging Edie. And as if that weren’t enough, Richard’s decision to cast him away from this turmoil takes place when the teenage twin are growing more and more excited about their approaching mitzvah celebrations.
While a brief overview and summary of the goings-on does not exactly sound like the stuff of break-through writing for an existing two-time novelist, that is exactly what The Middlesteins represents. The publication of Jami Attenberg’s third novel was a spectacular success that made it onto the New York Times Bestseller list and wound up the year as one of the top ten best-selling books on Amazon.com
In 2016, it was announced that The Middlesteins would be adapted into half-hour situation comedy series to air on Showtime.