My thoughts: The experience I had reading The Middlesteins is one of my favorites: I knew very little going into it, so I was able to enter the journey of this novel without any preconceptions. Early on, I fell hard for Robin's sharp, raw observations about herself and her world: "Robin looked at Daniel and had the meanest thought of her entire life. He'll do." I was so enamored with the way she sees the world, I was sad when the narration shifted to Benny's wife. Attenberg soon alleviated this pain, however, as I discovered each of the narrators were fascinating. I adore this scene, in which Rachelle outlines all of the lies she's told to her husband:
"She lies once or twice a month about going to matinees during the day by herself because she thinks he might begrudge her that pleasure when he works so hard himself, and this lie necessitates a double lie, one when he asks what she did that day, and two when they go to see a movie she has already seen and she has to pretend she hasn't seen it yet, which has led her husband to wonder if she has lost her sense of humor, or, in a more subtle way he has not been able to name yet, her capacity for joy, because she barely laughs at the jokes she already knows are coming."Attenberg utilizes the most omniscient form of narration possible, as she alludes to past, present and future simultaneously: "And then there he was, in a suit (it was his only suit, but she didn't know that yet), and he was smiling (his happiest days were behind him the minute he met her, but he didn't know that yet)."
While the character development is the focus of this novel, there is an impressive amount of plot in The Middlesteins. At times it felt like a play, where the pieces and characters were getting into their places for the real action to begin: for the reader to catch up on the past and present and join the future of The Middlesteins.
Favorite passage: "We are allowed to have more than one feeling at once," said Kenneth. "We are human beings, not ants."
The verdict: Jami Attenberg is a beautiful, insightful writer, and The Middlesteins is the contemporary family saga at its best. In less than 300 pages, Attenberg fully forms multiple character-driven narratives into a cohesive, poignant, and moving novel.
Rating: 4.5 out of 5
Length: 288 pages
Publication date: October 23, 2012
Source: publisher via NetGalley
Convinced? Treat yourself! Buy The Middlesteins from an independent bookstore, the Book Depository or Amazon (Kindle version.)
As an affiliate, I receive a small commission when you make a purchase through any of the above links. Thank you for helping to support my book habits that bring more content to this blog!