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A Gate at the Stairs (2009)

by Lorrie Moore

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
2,2721544,772 (3.36)213
"...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 forever changed..."--dust cover flap.… (more)
Recently added byprivate library, proudreaders, PaperboundPeregrine, Okies, AK148, buffygurl, williamhoy
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» See also 213 mentions

English (148)  Spanish (4)  French (1)  Italian (1)  All languages (154)
Showing 1-5 of 148 (next | show all)
Overall I did not like this as much as Moore's short stories. Iit seemed less plotted than filled with a number of random-seeming events. She is a good writer, but sometimes the writing seemed too much, too clever. Here is an example of her writing:

“It was like the classic scene in the movies where one lover is on the train and one is on the platform and the train starts to pull away, and the lover on the platform begins to trot along and then jog and then sprint and then gives up altogether as the train speeds irrevocably off. Except in this case I was all the parts: I was the lover on the platform, I was the lover on the train. And I was also the train.”

However, there were things I liked about the book; intriguing characters, great sense of place, and ambiguous moral dilemmas. In this book, the year is 2001, and Tassie, a college student, takes a job as nanny for a white couple who are adopting a mixed race baby. The couple seem like terrible parents, but Tassie seems to like and identify with both the mother and the daughter. The parts of the book about race in the US are very thought provoking, and Tassie's coming of age is heartbreakingly easy to identify with. ( )
  banjo123 | Jun 27, 2020 |
Although this book is very well written, overall I found it quite disappointing. There are interesting characters but their psychology is never fully explored. There are a lot of lenghty descriptions of nature that I found irrelevant to the plot. I also found the final revelation very much expected. I kept on reading hoping to get to know more but I was left wanting. On the other hand the main character is very well delineated and the writing is very poetic and beautiful. ( )
  ElisaDiNapoli | Sep 19, 2019 |
This book went in a very different direction than I expected, which was a good thing. ( )
  Katie80 | Oct 8, 2018 |
Funny, but sad. (Very good.) ( )
  smallself | Aug 23, 2018 |
This is a case where I think I'd have enjoyed the book more if not the audio version. ( )
  Eye_Gee | May 8, 2017 |
Showing 1-5 of 148 (next | show all)
As the drifts of perfectly turned moments mount up about the reader's shoulders, along with a corresponding paucity of dramatic incident, forward motion becomes increasingly difficult. Moore is a great writer, but you wish that every once in a while, she would settle for just being good.
added by Shortride | editTime, Lev Grossman (Oct 5, 2009)
 
Moore has performed a brilliant feat. She has retained the shining, fluid, and, yes, funny surface of her earlier work. But she has also given us a narrator who attempts to peer through the shimmering veil of language to the truth behind.
added by Shortride | editSlate, Claire Dederer (Sep 7, 2009)
 
What Moore crafts is so like life that to condemn Tassie for the ways in which she fails and falls short as a person would demand that we examine such behavior in ourselves. Thank goodness this book is funny, otherwise, it would be nearly unbearable.
added by Shortride | editAssociated Press, Patrick Condon (Sep 3, 2009)
 
Aggressively clever, meticulously crafted -- and exhausting.
added by jjlong | editSalon, Stephanie Zacharek (Sep 1, 2009)
 
Great writers usually present us with mysteries, but the mystery Lorrie Moore presents consists of appearing genial, joshing and earnest at once — unmysterious, in other words, yet still great. She’s a discomfiting, sometimes even rageful writer, lurking in the disguise of an endearing one.
 

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Epigraph
"As for living, we shall have our servants do that for us."
--VILLIERS DE L'ISLE-ADAM, Axel

"Suzuki!"
Madama Butterfly

"All seats provide equal viewing of the universe."
--MUSEUM GUIDE, HAYDEN PLANETARIUM
Dedication
This book is for Victoria Wilson and Melanie Jackson.
First words
The cold came late that fall and the songbirds were caught off guard.
Quotations
If he had loved me, or even if he’d just have said so, I would have died of happiness. But it didn’t happen. So I didn’t die of happiness. Words for a tombstone: SHE DIDN’T DIE OF HAPPINESS.
This was love, I supposed, and eventually I would come to know it. Someday it would choose me and I would come to understand its spell, for long stretches and short, two times, maybe three, and then quite probably it would choose me never again.
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Wikipedia in English (2)

"...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 forever changed..."--dust cover flap.

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Book description
Twenty-year-old Tassie Keltjin yearns to escape her provincial home. She moves to the college town of Troy to start university and takes a job as a part-time nanny to a glamorous couple. Tassie is drawn into their life and that of their newly adopted toddler. As the household reveals its complications, Tassie is forced out of her naivety, and the past and the future burst forth in dramatic and shocking ways.
Haiku summary
Yuppies need nanny
Every last thing is lost
Beware depressed much?

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