“A raw, boisterous, generous novel with a heroine to match and New York in its soul, Saint Mazie offers proof again that Jami Attenberg is a brilliant, lion-hearted storyteller.”
—Maggie Shipstead, author of Astonish Me and Seating Arrangements
Meet Mazie Phillips: big-hearted and bawdy, she’s the truth-telling proprietress of The Venice, the famed New York City movie theater. It’s the Jazz Age, with romance and booze aplenty–even when Prohibition kicks in–and Mazie never turns down a night on the town. But her high spirits mask a childhood rooted in poverty, and her diary, always close at hand, holds her dearest secrets.
When the Great Depression hits, Mazie’s life is on the brink of transformation. Addicts and bums roam the Bowery; homelessness is rampant. If Mazie won’t help them, then who? When she opens the doors of The Venice to those in need, this ticket-taking, fun-time girl becomes the beating heart of the Lower East Side, and in defining one neighborhood helps define the city.
Then, more than ninety years after Mazie began her diary, it’s discovered by a documentarian in search of a good story. Who was Mazie Phillips, really? A chorus of voices from the past and present fill in some of the mysterious blanks of her adventurous life.
Inspired by the life of a woman who was profiled in Joseph Mitchell’s classic Up in the Old Hotel, SAINT MAZIE is infused with Jami Attenberg’s signature wit, bravery, and heart. Mazie’s rise to “sainthood”–and her irrepressible spirit–is unforgettable.
Jonathan Franzen (Freedom) says: “The Middlesteins had me from its very first pages, but it wasn’t until its final pages that I fully appreciated the range of Attenberg’s sympathy and the artistry of her storytelling.”
Robin’s mother, Edie, was having another surgery in a week. Same procedure, different leg. Everyone kept saying, At least we know what to expect. Robin and her downstairs neighbor, Daniel, were toasting the leg at the bar across the street from their apartment building. It was cold out. January in Chicago. Robin had worn five layers just to walk across the street. Daniel was already drunk by the time she got there. Her mother was getting cut open twice in one year. Cheers.
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.
Catherine Madison is headed West with a suitcase full of cash that isn’t hers. She’s just left the only home she’s ever known, a small town in Nebraska, after the only man she had ever known, her husband, Thomas, deserted her. She’s also left behind her deepest, most shameful secrets-among them a dysfunctional family she’s never quite been able to escape and a marriage whose most intimate moments have plagued her with self-doubt. On the road, she was going to become a new person. Or so she thought.
But running away from the past isn’t as easy as she had hoped. When Catherine reaches Las Vegas, she forms surprising new friendships that compel her to reveal what she had sworn she’d keep hidden, and teach her what human connection really means. Armed with this new knowledge, she is finally emboldened to uncover the truth about her family, come to understand what destroyed her marriage, and prevent her troubled sister from repeating her mistakes.
Deeply compassionate and unflinchingly bold, The Melting Season is the story of an indelible character’s journey from isolation to belonging, as well as an honest look at the things we feel we deserve from our lives- and how far we will go to find them.
There was the ambulance, and a lot of noise, and me and Martin in the hospital, paint on his face, paint on my knees, the two of us the weirdest people in the room, as usual, only this time I didn’t have anyone to talk to but myself.
Six years ago, Jarvis Miller’s husband, an artist whose career was poised to take off, fell into a coma. And ever since, she’s been waiting. She has waited at his bedside, leaning against the nursing home’s yellow walls and then waited a day for her depression to subside after every visit. She has waited for doctors and prescriptions, all the newest and best; for cars to take her home; for checks to sign; and most of all she has waited for her husband to wake up. But after six years of dwindling hope, living as a half-widow, and selling off pieces of her husband’s artwork to pay for the machines that keep him alive, Jarvis has come to admit that she’s waiting for her husband to die.
Then one spring day when her washing machine breaks down, Jarvis meets the members of the Kept Man Club: three handsome, interesting men, all married to breadwinner wives, who meet once a week at a local laundromat. Their companionship opens her eyes to the possibilities of family, warmth, and friendship she’s been missing, and they become her first new friends in six years. At the same time, her husband’s best friend and his art dealer pressure Jarvis to gather the remainder of his work for a retrospective – a proposition that produces mixed feelings, since it’s an honor usually reserved for the already dead. Sorting through a hidden box of photographs, she uncovers evidence of a shocking betrayal that calls into question her idealized vision of the past.
On O Magazine’s “What You’re Really Going to Want to Read this Summer” list and Seattle P-I’s summer reading list. Daily Candy called it “The summer’s must-read.”
We are all walking around this city with our hearts sadly swimming in our chests, like a dying fish on the surface of a still pond. It’s enough to make you give up entirely.
Told through the eyes of three young women and their friends and lovers, Jami Attenberg’s powerful debut explores what it means to be in love, what it means to be lonely, and what it means to be both at the same time. Holly turns to computer dating for late night hook ups even as she thinks wistfully of a former boyfriend who loved her well and fed her ice cream. Maggie recounts the story of her one crazy summer to her disbelieving husband and feels the distance between them grow wider than the void across their king sized bed. And Sarah Lee remembers the one who got away and the one she ran away from, all the while moving toward the one she can actually love. Through their stories, Attenberg presents a rare, honest look at love.