The Middlesteins, by Jami Attenberg

Edie Middlestein is eating herself to death.

When we first meet Edie she is five years old, “disarmingly solid”, with an appetite for “salty liverwurst and red onion on warm rye bread.” Sixty years later, she is morbidly obese and diabetic.

Eating, for Edie, has never been merely about sustenance; it’s about love. Like the offspring of so many immigrant Jews, she was brought up in the belief that “food was made of love, and was what made love.” Now, eating is nothing less than an act of self-love at the tail end of a lifetime of translating acts of food consumption into gestures of affection, whether given or received.

All the sadnesses of late middle age are subsumed in the palliative temptations of multiple Big Macs in the late afternoon or a midnight snack of ice cream and supermarket brownies eaten standing by the open fridge to round off the evening’s blow-out Chinese meal.

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