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A Gate at the Stairs is The new York Times One Of The Best Books Of The Year winners as well as various other literary awards and nominations I d liken Lorrie Moore to a cross between Zo Heller and Lionel Shriver this novel is insightful, comic, thought provoking and tragic beautifully rendered with some gorgeous turn of phrase Tassie is a wonderfully touching character you come to love and admire she s a twenty year old who, while being somewhat naive with guys, is also surprisingly mature about life The story in a nutshell Tassie moves from the family farm into Troy to attend college and gets herself a part time job as a nanny to Mary Emma, for Sarah and Edward There s some real tragedy here including Tassie s brother s very short deployment to Afghanistan and Mary Emma s adoption but also some beautifully warm moments Tassie s relationship with her father and with Mary Emma My favorite part is Tassie donning her bird costume to scare the mice from her father s crops.I like the review of O, The Oprah Magazine which says A miracle of lyric force, beautiful and beautifully constucted, with a comic touch that transforms itself to a kind of harrowing precision.I am so impressed with Martin s work My one criticism not long enough, I could have easily read another 150 pages of this exceptional novel 4 Some reviewers are responding to this novel much as I expected Moore is too clever by half, the voice of her narrator is too mature, the plot is unbelievable My response is that she IS too clever by half, and so what The narrator has the voice of a 50 ish academic professor becausethat is who is speakingshe makes references to later I would find out, or another boyfriend would later tell me As for the plot and its spotty verisimilitude, I would suggest that reviewers who suggest as much may not have grown up as a girl in the Midwest Trust me, it s perfectly plausible to be directly affected by war overseas, become infatuated with swarthy, secretive lovers who are wholly inappropriate for you, nanny for white liberal zealots with questionable backgrounds and or ethics all during one s sopho year and view it all with a preternaturally wise, wry eye In addition, her passages on the weather and the natural world are astoundingly poetic, her take on the harm done by passive complicity to gendered authority, the bizarreness of government and law over ruling love and nature and family and motherhood are all pretty eloquent. The end sequence took hold of me One hundred pages into it, I hated this book The last twenty pages actually seemed like something that might happen, and it resonnated with somethings happening in my life Moore is out of her league her, writing about things that she does not know Loorie Moore is 52 She has not been an undergraduate in college for 30 years and it showed in this book When she used the band name Modest Mouse, it sounded clunky, fake, phony as my good friend Holden might say I m reminded of Charlotte Simmons this was the first Tom Wolfe book I ever read and I will never read it again It was insulting On top of her inability to live the life of a 20 21 year old college student, she tries to tackle every topic out there She passes over September 11th with a crude joke Having lived in DC at the time, and being in college myself, I can say that I and my fellow classmates did not think it was very funny I m not sure anybody did Scared as hell Yes Then, she has her protagonist in her German high school class drawing pictures of Hitler and panzer tanks she seems to hark back to the Nazi era You may not be old enough, but you ll come to realize that the Nazis always win What high school teacher lets that stuff fly The older generation should know that they have no idea what happens in college these days, admit that they don t understand the humor, the nuance I m not at all stating that its sophisticated in every aspect, or that there aren t shallow and idiotic individuals, but Moore and Wolfe just don t get it The narrative was all over the place The characters were unbelievable The attempt at half noir failed I received an email from a proprietor of a bookstore claiming that this book was by far the best of the year He obviously hasn t read anything else or is looking at this thing as the absurd. The problem with this book is that it has no centre Moore can t decide if she wants it to be about the travails of 20 year old Tassie who grapples with being a country girl thrown into the big city campus alarm bells rang in my head at the pointedness of making her half Jewish as well or about the 40 something chef Sarah, with a mysterious past and who adopts a little girl of mixed race parentage For a large part of the story, Sarah looms uncertainly as a close to central character, likeable in a loopy kind of way as she faces the big bad world of adoption protocols But in the latter part of the novel, she disappears without a trace when some trouble arises regarding custody of her adopted daughter Lest it be said that this novel is without a theme, Moore inserts interracial issues into the plot, albeit in a half hearted fashion These are dealt with in the weekly meetings that Sarah organizes in her home with racially blended families who are grappling with the same issues of raising adopted kids Like the reader, Tassie half listens to the bits of arguments that float up the stairs into the children s room where she is babysitting the kid of these parents, occasionally scandalized and horrified by some of the interesting nuggets randomly conjured up Throw in Tassie s heady and unsteady relationship with a would be Brazilian classmate with a tell tale prayer mat in his room and we have an over deliberate attempt to draw a parallel between Sarah and her baby Mary Emma or Emmie from her initials on the one hand and Tassie and Reynaldo on the other and to exoticize the story Occasionally funny, and with truly tragic bits that tug at the heartstrings Sarah and her husband Edward s backstory about a bad parenting decision gone wrong still haunts me , the novel, however, is smaller than the sum of its parts Tassie goes through her experiences as an observer than a participant and one can t help feeling that she is a little disengaged even when she tries to explain her bond to the little Emmie and her employers Even when she deals with a family loss, there is a sense Tassie goes through the mourning in a robotic must feel numb fashion Part of the problem is that Moore does not quite get under the skin of a 20 year old who is also a sometime guitarist This musical aspect of her character seems to be a stereotype rather than a defining character trait, and the clumsy references to it fails to give Tassie the person any shape.Coming from an author who has churned out genre defining short story collections like Self Help and the brilliant Birds of America , I can t help but feel a little shortchanged by this novel. ( Free Epub ) ⚉ A Gate at the Stairs ☩ A Novel On The Anxiety And Disconnection Of Post America, On The Insidiousness Of Racism, The Blind Sidedness Of War, And The Recklessness Thrust On Others In The Name Of LoveAs 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 Alien To Her Her Parents Are Frailer Her Brother, Aimless And Lost In High School, Contemplates Joining The Military Tassie Finds Herself Becoming And The Stranger She Felt Herself To Be, And As Life And Love Unravel Dramatically, Even Shockingly, She Is Forever Changed Try angsty, atmospheric , and utterly self indulgent, never mind the fact that it s too obvious that her editor must be illiterate Either that or she knows someone or is related to someone to get this kind of bottom of the pit novel published by a major publishing house. I came to this novel with great expectations, considering the praise heaped on it dozens of top 10 and bestseller lists And indeed from the first few sentences you had the feeling you were in the hands of a sure, masterful storyteller But over the course of the novel it unraveled and became an inchoate mix of sophomoric polemic, coming of age story, carictaurish depictions of terrorists, and clever wordplay The story s vehicle is Tassie, a 20 yr old college freshman who becomes a nanny for a wealthy, over educated, white liberal couple who adopt an infant girl who is part African American It is best when it takes us on the journey of an open adoption, that too in a situation where the complication is not only the class and race issues of this particular adoption but the conflicts and emotional fractures of the adopting parents The adoption story is in fact where the novel s heart lies, and where it is not only sweet and funny but heartbreakingly sad the latter so much so that I had to put the put book aside at times Along the way we get lots of biting comments on the class and social differences between the liberal college town where Tassie goes to school and her country roots However all this gets buried in extraneous sub plots Tassie s infatuation with a classmate wont give the spoiler here , her brother Robert s aimless stumbling into volunteering for duty in Afghanistan, and her ambivalent relationships with her parents The worst sections are pages and pages where the politics of interracial adoption are debated by a group of parents whom Tassie listens to while babysitting a clumsy and transparent device for directly inserting polemic and social commentary into the novel without bothering to give them the clothing of character and plot The continual wordplay by Tasie, her room mate Murph, her brother and her father are wearing Finally, like so many contemporary novels, the male characters are the worst and receive no compassion the confused brother, the vain and selfish husband, the hopeless boyfriend, and so on All in all, disappointing and not worth the effort. Lorrie Moore takes on a lot possibly too much in her third novel race, class, war and post 9 11 anxiety But her sharp eye, beautifully attuned ear for language and wry sense of humour help the novel over even its roughest patches.It s the coming of age story of Midwestern college student Tassie Keltjin, who in the fall of 2001 takes on a part time job as a nanny to help pay for school Her employers are the 40 ish Sarah Brink, the liberal, highly strung chef and owner of a high end French restaurant, and her mostly absent husband Edward, who s got a wicked silvery hairdo and a roving eye Then there s their newly adopted African American toddler Mary Emma, nicknamed Emmie to stand for M.EOf course something significant happened in September 2011, but it s referred to obliquely, and has ramifications in Tassie s younger brother going to war and in one other plot point I won t mention I ll just say that a feeling of unease and restlessness settles over most of the book just think of the thin protection suggested by the title.Emmie s biracial background allows Moore to riff a lot on race, especially in a series of meetings in which parents of non Caucasian children get to vent their frustrations once a week There s clever, smart writing in these scenes, but they re also repetitive and monotonous.Moore has some problems with pacing and plot A character can t pass a flower without describing it And the author can t resist a play on a word, or some aren t I so brilliant observation coming out of anyone s mouth Tassie s insights seem much mature and worldly than that of a college age woman who was raised on a farm and if Moore intends the narrative to be from a woman looking back on her life which would explain the maturity it s not always successful.But line by line she is such a good writer, and there are images in the book of startling, haunting clarity and power In her short stories, Moore s always been able to find the humour in pain and heartbreak, and she does so again here, except on a larger and ambitious canvas. I absolutely can not abide fiction that is meant to be realistic and then is written in a way that does not accurately reflect any kind of reality Another reviewer on here mentioned that Moore is out of her league and is writing about being a grad student, something she clearly knows nothing about I couldn t agree After reading a slew of terrible pop fiction I have decided to institute a 50 pages or 3 strikes rule before I quit a novel Usually there are warning signs very early on that inspire me to toss the book aside but I ignore them and soldier on No.Strike 1 The main character s roommate passes her old vibrator on to her when she starts dating Under no circumstances would this EVER happen Strike 2 The main character does not use the vibrator nstead she leaves it sitting on the counter where she occasionally uses it to STIR HER CHOCOLATE MILK.Strike 3 A pregnant teenage tosses a grown woman who wants to adopt her unborn child a wrapped pat of butter at a restaurant and jokes, I got you a gift too and its wrapped The woman procedes to unwrap the butter and spread it on her lips while remarking that it will keep her lips from getting chapped Stop, just stop. I love Lorrie Moore s writing I love it so much that I spent my college years ripping her off well, trying to anyway in fiction writing workshops Her short story collections rank high among my favorite books But I ve never fallen in love with any of her novels in the same way All of those wonderful little moments of wry humor amidst sadness are there, but the structure of it just doesn t quite work for me There s a bit with a college boyfriend who isn t what he appears that gets handled in a way that left me cringing The couple Tassie s babysitting for, who also aren t what they appear, didn t quite ring true to me either I still tore through it, and I still had those moments where I set the book down for a second because my breath was taken away, and that s tough to come by I still love Moore s writing, but I couldn t help but be a bit disappointed in this novel.