Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Middlesteins: Packs a Whallop

By Jami Attenberg

What is the Jewish obsession with food?  Ever since I can remember when I was growing up, we Jews use any excuse to eat. We associate celebration with food. We Jews always eating at every life cycle event, birth, Bar, or Bats Mitzvah, Wedding, finding any excuse to eat. 

Here is article that Jami Attenberg wrote in the Forward it ties into her novel, the Middlesteins.   It is a conversation with her, and her father, enjoy!!! Here is a awesome review by Christian Monitor.

 Middlestein's,  Richard and Edie, and their grown children, Robin, and Benny, and their twin grandchildren.

Robin is single, and a teacher with a boyfriend. She is angry about her mother's situation.  Benny, is the pot smoker.  He is married to Rachelle.  Rachelle is the daughter in law, that tries to fix her mother in law.

 Edie is a well educated woman, she graduated law school. At one time she worked as a partner in a large law firm.   She stopped working as her weight increased so much. She was afraid to go out of the house, why you ask? What is her  flaw, you ask?   Her weight, and her uncontrollable  eating habits, not just a little, but over and beyond,  As she grows older into middle age, her weight has risen to 350 lbs.

 With obesity and other health issues, on the eve of her surgery, her husband of over thirty years abandons her.  Her daughter, Robin is very angry at her father. Rachelle, tries to help her mother in law. She gives her advice that her mother in law doesn't want to follow, she  follows her mother in law, and practically stalks her.  Watching her every time she goes in her car, following her, watching what she eats, Chinese restaurants, McD's, and Burger King. Through it all,  Poor Benny, is loosing his hair.

 To add to the stress, Rachelle, and Benny are planning their twin children's over the top bar-mitzvah.

Book Review:
I enjoyed reading, Middlestein's.  It is a small book, with lots of punch and emotion.   There are parts that are comical, and quirky, and serious at the same time.  Each chapter,  Edie adds the pounds. each chapter shows her weight increasing as the years go by, and into her marriage, and her later years.

Is the family responsible for you, if you can't help yourself? Or are you ultimately the one who is responsible for yourself?  Yes, it eats you up seeing someone so compulsive. They can't help themselves. You see the person hurting them self and you can't do anything but stand at the side lines. You are the only one that can help yourself.  No matter how much you intervene, it the person, not you, the enabler. In so many situations, domestic violence, smoking, gambling, drugs, alcohol.

At times it was a fun read, but other hard to take, to watch. I can understand Richard's situation. He couldn't stand to see his wife do this to herself.  Enough is enough.

As a person having knowledge of what obesity can do to you, it is heartbreaking.  Some people just can't control themselves.  I think most American's can't identify to this as a illness.  But, it is.  Just like cigarettes, drugs, alcohol, and gambling is a disease, so is obesity. Most people substitute eating for love when they are overweight.

It is even harder when you are watching a family member get heavier, and heavier.  Harder still when it is a person middle age, and they have health issues, such as diabetes, heart disease.

While reading there is a scene, she is about to have surgery the next day. She is contemplating eating, even though she realizes she is told nothing by mouth after 12 am. She thinks to herself what harm can that do?  That is so sad, that someone can contemplate eating, even when she will have surgery the next day.  This part was so heart wrenching and sad to me.  I am not going to tell you the rest, there is more to come to this story.

The point of the book, who is responsible for you? yourself? or your family?
The argument that I have. You are the only one that can help yourself.  No matter how much your family loves you. It is your responsibility. You can ask for help, and there is a point that the family can help, the rest is up to you. 

I don't mean to get on my soap box, I am sure Jami Attenberg didn't mean for this book to be a discussion about enabling,  and eating disorders. If you are in the health field, or psychology field, like my niece( works with eating disorders), I would suggest this book, for you, and your clients.

There is so much to talk about in book clubs.  Health issue, obesity, compulsions, enablers, etc. This would be a good book for book clubs, There is lots of emotion, in such a small book.

Thank you Evan from Grand Central Publishing for allowing me to review, and post my thoughts.  I enjoyed reading.



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