I read the Sunday New York Times Book Review whenever I can, and on December 30, 2012, I was drawn to a review headlined “Suburban Sprawl” beneath a drawing of an obese woman. “Diabetes” was right there, in the first paragraph, and so I kept reading, and eventually downloaded the e-book version of The Middlesteins, by Jami Attenberg.
It turns out that diabetes is a bit player in the book (it’s probably the least of the central character’s problems), which wraps a tale of three generations of a Chicago-area Jewish family and their friends around the protagonist, Edie, and her food behaviors. Edie is a big girl from the book’s beginning, when she is very young, until the end.
The Middlesteins is a page-turner not only for its brisk dialogue and plot twists, but also for its revelations about love/hate affairs with food, and the consequences of one’s actions. Since food choices play such a big part in the lives of anyone with diabetes, this is a novel worth reading, if only for the insights we will gain about ourselves. I challenge anyone older than the age of 25 not to see some part of themselves, or their family, in the narrative.
It must be the season for books about food and weight, because yesterday’s Boston Globe Books section carried a review of a new non-fiction title called The Heavy: A Mother, A Daughter, A Diet, A Memoir. This true story recounts the struggles of Dara-Lynn Weiss and her seven-year-old daughter Bea, after Bea’s doctor pronounced the child obese. Essentially, the book centers on the question of how a woman with her own food and body image issues – not to mention irregular eating habits – could successfully parent a little girl around the issue of obesity.
The answers, apparently (I haven’t read it yet) lie within the memoir. The Globe reviewer wrote that the book turns out to be more about the mother than the child, which, if true, shouldn’t reduce its value to any of us who struggle with our own eating habits, weight, lack of physical activity, or all of the above.
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