04 June 2010 ~ 0 Comments

A Gate at the Stairs by Lorrie Moore

I read this book and listened to on audio while taking a small overnight trip – I just mixed up depending on if I was driving or reading on my Kindle. I ended up reading and listening to most of it twice which was a good and bad thing.

First, the story is compelling, it grabbed me and wouldn’t let go. I sat outside for 10 minutes while we found out the big “what’s the secret” aspect of the story. I was simply late getting somewhere because I HAD TO KNOW NOW. In that respect it was really good. On the audiobook side, the narrator does a really good job with expression and keeping my attention.

Then the bad. The author is verbose. There are entirely too many adjectives and adverbs in this book. A good editor might have had a field day cutting it up and paring it down. Worst, were the digressions. I believe it took me five solid minutes of reading to get the main character from the step to knocking on the door because she went off in some wild direction about something else. This happened several times. While I “get” it, it also made me mutter “oh, just shut up” under my breath a few times. I’m still not sure what the introduction of the boyfriend really did for the story, but whatever.

Having said that, it was a good read for my book club. It was interesting, it left me thinking about it at the end and I remember much of it two weeks later. I do wish the ending had been done differently, but well, it’s a rare day I like the ending of a book.

Worth a read if you can get past the overly descriptive descriptions and devilishly delicious digressions!

In her best-selling story collection, Birds of America (“[it] will stand by itself as one of our funniest, most telling anatomies of human love and vulnerability” —James McManus, front page of The New York Times Book Review), Lorrie Moore wrote about the disconnect between men and women, about the precariousness of women on the edge, and about loneliness and loss.

Now, in her dazzling new novel—her first in more than a decade—Moore turns her eye on the anxiety and disconnection of post-9/11 America, on the insidiousness of racism, the blind-sidedness of war, and the recklessness thrust on others in the name of love.

As the United States begins gearing up for war in the Middle East, twenty-year-old Tassie Keltjin, the Midwestern daughter of a gentleman hill farmer—his “Keltjin potatoes” are justifiably famous—has come to a university town as a college student, her brain on fire with Chaucer, Sylvia Plath, Simone de Beauvoir.

Between semesters, she takes a job as a part-time nanny.

The family she works for seems both mysterious and glamorous to her, and although Tassie had once found children boring, she comes to care for, and to protect, their newly adopted little girl as her own.

As the year unfolds and she is drawn deeper into each of these lives, her own life back home becomes ever more alien to her: her parents are frailer; her brother, aimless and lost in high school, contemplates joining the military. Tassie finds herself becoming more and more the stranger she felt herself to be, and as life and love unravel dramatically, even shockingly, she is foreverchanged.

This long-awaited new novel by one of the most heralded writers of the past two decades is lyrical, funny, moving, and devastating; Lorrie Moore’s most ambitious book to date—textured, beguiling, and wise.

Rating: ★★★☆☆

Book count for 2010: 37

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