The Middlesteins by Jami Attenberg

For more than thirty years, Edie and Richard Middlestein shared a solid family life together: two children, a nice house in the Chicago suburbs, ample employment, generous friends. 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 that 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.

Visit Jami Attenberg's official website.

Read the transcript from JBC and Jewcy's Twitter Book Club with Jami Attenberg from December 12, 2012, below. Make sure to follow the Jewish Book Council ( @jewishbook) and Jewcy (@jewcymag), and search #JLit to follow next month's conversation!

JewishBook: Hi @jamiattenberg! Welcome to Twitter Book Club with @jewcymag and @JewishBook #JLit

stuffism: twitter book club time! @jamiattenberg joins @jewcymag &@JewishBook to talk Jews, food, and her novel THE MIDDLESTEINS -- follow w #JLit

erikadreifus: @JewishBook Hineini! Hi, everyone.#JLit

JewishBook: .@jamiattenberg Congrats on the recent publication of THE MIDDLESTEINS! #JLit What's the reception been so far?

Jamiattenberg: @JewishBook Oh it's been pretty great so far. Nice reviews and also lots of nice emails from people who connected with the book. #jlit

Jamiattenberg: @JewishBook It's always thrilling to talk to new readers. #jlit

JewishBook: @GrandCentralPub Join us for#JLit Twitter Book Club with@jamiattenberg happening right now!

JewishBook: .@jamiattenberg Great! Obv food & obsessions with it (&other things) have a strong presence in the bk. How did that theme come to you?#JLit

Jamiattenberg: @JewishBook I don't think I sat down and thought: now I will write about food. It was just very natural for the character. #jlit

Jamiattenberg: @JewishBook Also it was set in the community where I grew up and food has a strong presence there. (Also in my own life too.) #jlit

JewishBook: .@jamiattenberg So the character preceded the food? #JLit

Jamiattenberg: @JewishBook Right. It was where it was set more than anything first.#jlit

JewishBook: .@jamiattenberg If it's set in your home community, I have to ask... how autobiographical is THE MIDDLESTEINS? #JLit

erikadreifus: @jamiattenberg I loved how the ending section gave us glimpses into the future (starting with "She's going to regret saying that." #JLit 1/2

jewcymag: .@jamiattenberg where do you think the idea that food = love comes from for Jews? #JLit

jamiattenberg: @JewishBook Well it's definitely not my family. But there are different autobiographical elements in there, as with any writer. #jlit

erikadreifus: @jamiattenberg 2/2 What drove your choice to give us readers that look into the future? Did you come to it early/late in process? #JLit

jamiattenberg: @jewcymag It's just part of who we are. #jlit

NaomiFirestone: .@jamiattenberg 1/4 Last night I heard Chris Ware at @nypl (with the great Zadie Smith) and he discussed the importance of ...#JLit

@erikadreifus It was not a conscious decision necessarily when I started doing it. Just part of storytelling. It opened the story up#jlit

NaomiFirestone: 2/4 urban space (specifically Chicago) to his work... #JLit

JewishBook: .@jamiattenberg Were you worried ppl would read it too autobiographically? Is your family more or less embarrassing than the Midds? #JLit

NaomiFirestone: @jamiattenberg 3/4 Can you discuss your method for incorporating Chicago into your work? #JLit

Jamiattenberg: @erikadreifus But once I started doing it, it made perfect sense and became a real tool for me. #jlit

NaomiFirestone: @jamiattenberg 4/4 Did you just use childhood experiences or were there other tools at play (e.g., visuals, other writers, etc.)? #JLit

GrandCentralPub: RT @JewishBook@GrandCentralPub Join us for#JLit Twitter Book Club with@jamiattenberg happening right now!

jewcymag: .@jamiattenberg what are your top 3 favorite foods? (it's lunchtime, indulge us) #JLit

Jamiattenberg: @JewishBook my family is lovely.#jlit

JewishBook: .@jamiattenberg I hope they're on Twitter Book Club right now! #JLit :)

Jamiattenberg: @NaomiFirestone I don't really know if I had a method per se. It was really just a safe place to start. I did some research but 1/2 #jlit

erikadreifus: @jamiattenberg Re: food & love - not only Jews, right? Look at Kenneth, for instance. #JLit

Jamiattenberg: @NaomiFirestone Mostly it was just from memory and it felt important to set it there. #jlit

JewishBook: @erikadreifus @jamiattenbergGreat point, Erika! #JLit

JewishBook: .@jamiattenberg Other than food, what are other obsessions you associate with Jews? #JLit

erikadreifus: @jamiattenberg I loved it. I think it's an excellent technique. #JLit

jamiattenberg: @jewcymag hmm. i don't know if i could choose 3! i like a nice steak. i probably could ramen from momofuku forever. #jlit

Jamiattenberg: @erikadreifus thank you! it was fun to do. #jlit

JewishBook: @jamiattenberg @erikadreifus@jewcymag Maybe family = food? Or loneliness = food ? #JLit

Jewcymag: Hey @mileenddeli @TheSussmans@LoxPopuli we're talking Jews and food with THE MIDDLESTEINS author @jamiattenberg -- use #JLitto chime in!

Jamiattenberg: @NaomiFirestone Also I went back and took pictures. I just remembered that I did that! I have tried to do that for all my books. #jlit

JewishBook: .@jamiattenberg Are you a photographer? #JLit

Jamiattenberg: @JewishBook @erikadreifus@jewcymag I don't know if I can speak for an entire group of people. I just think food is awesome. #jlit

Erikadreifus: @jamiattenberg @JewishBookWork crisis! Have to log out. Will look for transcript later. Jami, it's a wonderful book. #JLit

NaomiFirestone: @jamiattenberg Ha, Zadie Smith said the same thing last night re: her research for NW. #JLit

Stuffism: .@jamiattenberg bar mitzvahs are the best. what's your all-time favorite bar mitzvah song? #JLit

Jamiattenberg; @JewishBook I mean I'm not a Photographer. But I like to take pictures. #jlit

Jamiattenberg: @stuffism God I haven't been to one in so long. When I was growing up it was all about Celebration. #jlit

Jewcymag: .@jamiattenberg we agree, food is awesome #Jlit

Jamiattenberg: @stuffism What's yours? #jlit

JewishBook: .@jamiattenberg And, to jump on@stuffism's question, we're sure you heard some great bar/bat mitzvah celebration stories... 1/2#JLit

JewishBook: . @jamiattenberg 2/2 while you gathered fodder for the Middlestein B’nai Mitzvah. Can you share some of your favorites? #JLit

Jewcymag: #nowplaying RT @stuffism:@jamiattenberg gotta go with 'September' #Jlit

Jamitattenberg: @JewishBook You know I really did a lot of it from just a general memory of events. #jlit

JewishBook: .@jamiattenberg Which character do you identify with most? #JLit

Jamiattenberg: @JewishBook I did crash a wedding party at a hotel in the Chicago burbs while I was writing the book though. Just to see the room. #jlit

Jewcymag: @jamiattenberg that is amazing#JLit

Jamiattenberg: @JewishBook All of them! They all have little bits of me. Except for maybe Rachelle. #jlit

JewishBook: .@jamiattenberg Ha! Why do you exclude her specifically? #JLit

Jamiattenberg: @JewishBook She just leads a life I would never lead. #jlit

JewishBook: .@jamiattenberg Would you classify the Midds as a normal amount of dysfunctional, or more dysfunctional than your avg Jewish fam? #JLit

JewishBook: .@jamiattenberg Seeing as you're from Chicago but live in NY, can you write one tweet each describing NY Jews versus Chicago Jews? Go!#JLit

Jamiattenberg: @JewishBook I guess normal amount? I hope they're universal and relatable. #jlit

Jewcymag: .@jamiattenberg Your@vol1brooklyn pickle-making vid w@Jeffyosko is great is it fun promoting a book about food?#JLit

Stuffism: .@jamiattenberg the post-grad NYC scenes were so spot on. Did that come from your own experience?#JLit

Jamiattenberg: @jewcymag I loved that video! But I will be happy to not talk about food again for a while I must admit. :) #jlit

Nycbook: .@jamiattenberg What's the connection between Jews and Chinese food and/or people? #JLit

Jamiattenberg: @stuffism I didn't do Teach For America or anything like that. But I did live in Bushwick once for 6 months and truly hated it. #jlit

BookGal102: .@jamiattenberg Can you recommend other recent(ish) titles that deal with the secular Jewish family in America? #JLit

Jewcymag: .@jamiattenberg has THE MIDDLESTEINS found a different audience than your previous books? #JLit

JewishBook: .@jamiattenberg @stuffism But I hear you're sticking it out in Brooklyn at least! #JLit

Jamiattenberg: @nycbook Chinese food is delicious! #jlit

Stuffism: @jamiattenberg #bedbugs #JLit

JewishBook: @jamiattenberg @nycbookSpeaking of Jews and Chinese food... #JLit

Jamiattenberg: @JewishBook @stuffism Yes I've lived here since 2002. #jlit

AdamTeeter: .@jamiattenberg Will you be celebrating Xmas with Chinese food? If so, where do you go? #JLit

Jamiattenberg: @jewcymag It seems so! My mom claims it's because there is less sex in the book. #jlit

sbreger: @jamiattenberg...some comparisons to your book and The Corrections. Was that intentional? Is Franzen an influence? #JLit

JewishBook: We agree! RT @jamiattenberg:@BookGal102 I just read Josh Henkin's latest book, The World Without You, and it was good! #JLit

JewishBook: @jamiattenberg @jewcymag Do your parents read all your books? Do you walk around biting your nails while they do it? #JLit

Jamiattenberg: @sbreger I was really influenced by The Corrections and read it while I was writing the book but I feel like we are very dif writers. #jlit

jamiattenberg: @sbreger Franzen is a master! I am just beginning. #jlit

jewcymag: .@jamiattenberg what are five words you’d use to describe Edie?#JLit

jamiattenberg: @AdamTeeter mmm. I want to! I like NY Noodletown in Chinatown. #jlit

jamiattenberg: @JewishBook @jewcymag My mom and I talk the most about my books. She's a fan. I don't worry. #jlit

JewishBook: .@jamiattenberg There are some somewhat grotesque scenes with Edie eating. Were those fun to write? Painful? Nauseating? #JLit

jewcymag: We're doing Xmas at @Missionstfood RT @jamiattenberg:@AdamTeeter mmm. I want to! I like NY Noodletown in Chinatown. #jlit

jamiattenberg: @JewishBook I think it was a challenge to keep things balanced. I didn't want to go too far on it. I wanted the food to sound good.#jlit

jamiattenberg: @JewishBook It doesn't really gross me out. I'm not her but I understand her. She was trying to fill herself up. #jlit

JewishBook: .@jamiattenberg Good and oh-so-treyf! But what's Chinese food without treyf... #JLit

stuffism: .@jamiattenberg what is your go-to comfort food? #JLit

JewishBook: .@jamiattenberg How does the process of writing THE MIDDLESTEINS compare to other books you've written? And what's next?#JLit

jamiattenberg: @stuffism mac and cheese all the way. #jlit

JewishBook: Last chance to ask @jamiattenberg questions as part of #JLitTwitter Book Club! Use #JLit

jewcymag: RT @JewishBook: Last chance to ask @jamiattenberg questions as part of #JLit Twitter Book Club! Use #JLit

jamiattenberg @JewishBook My process is pretty much the same with all my books. You sit down and do the work. There's no other way to write a book.#jlit

jamiattenberg: @JewishBook I think sometimes people want to know some magic trick or tip on how to write a book. But literally it's just: write. #jlit

jamiattenberg: @JewishBook Next year I'm writing a book I sold on proposal called SAINT MAZIE. It's a historical novel set on the Bowery 1920s-40s.#jlit

JewishBook: @jamiattenberg Very cool! #JLit

JewishBook: And with that, looks like we're out of time! Thx to@jamiattenberg for a fantastic Twitter Book Club, and @jewcymag for co-sponsoring #JLit

JewishBook: And thanks to y'all for reading and asking Qs. We've gotta keep our authors on their toes! #JLit

Jamiattenberg: @JewishBook @jewcymag Thanks guys! It was fun! #jlit4ever

JewishBook: @jamiattenberg @jewcymag We'll use that as our newest hashtag! #JLit #JLit4ever

jewcymag: @jamiattenberg @jewishbook thanks guys! great chat #jlit #Jlit4ever