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A Gate at the Stairs (Vintage Contemporaries)by Lorrie Moore
Synopses & Reviews
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 forever changed.
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.
"The admired fiction writer Lorrie Moore has a unique gift. She can be screamingly funny — and in the very next paragraph, able to convey terrible grief....Her language is dazzling." USA Today
"[ A Gate at the Stairs ] is a gift." Philadelphia Inquirer
"Moore is such a bright, witty writer...A Gate at the Stairs is Moore's first novel in 15 years, which means a whole generation of readers has grown up thinking of her only as one of the country's best short-story writers. Get ready to expand your sense of what she — and a novel — can do...what's so endearing is Moore's ability to tempt us with humor into the surreal boundaries of human experience, those strange decisions that make no sense out of context, the things we can't believe anyone would do. The novel's climax takes us right into the disorienting logic of grief for a scene that's both horrifying and tender, a grotesque violation of taboos that's entirely forgivable and heartbreaking." Ron Charles, The Washington Post
"Moore may be, exactly, the most irresistible contemporary American writer: brainy, humane, unpretentious and warm; seemingly effortlessly lyrical; Lily-Tomlin-funny. Most of all, Moore is capable of enlisting not just our sympathies but our sorrows....This book plumbs deep because it is anchored deep." Jonathan Lethem, The New York Times Book Review
"Contemporary fiction has produced few noticers with a better eye and more engaging voice than Tassie Keltjin, the narrator of Lorrie Moore's deceptively powerful A Gate at the Stairs. For much of Moore's first novel in 15 years — her short stories have established her as something of a Stateside Alice Munro — Tassie's eye and ear are pretty much all there is to the book....The enrichment of such complications makes this one of the year's best novels." Kirkus Reviews (featured review)
"The unique vision and exquisite writing cast a spell." Booklist (starred)
"[A] luminous, heart-wrenchingly wry novel....Moore's graceful prose considers serious emotional and political issues with low-key clarity and poignancy...generous flashes of wit endow this stellar novel with great heart." Publishers Weekly (starred)
"Her most powerful book yet....An indelible portrait of a young woman coming of age in the Midwest in the year after 9/11....The novel explores, with enormous emotional precision, the limitations and insufficiencies of love, and the loneliness that haunts even the most doting of families....Most memorably, in this haunting novel Ms. Moore gives us stark, melancholy glimpses into her characters' hearts, mapping their fears and disappointments, their hidden yearnings and their more evanescent efforts to hold on to their dreams in the face of unfurling misfortune." Michiko Kakutani, The New York Times
"Fifty years from now, it may well turn out that the work of very few American writers has as much to say about what it means to be alive in our time as that of Lorrie Moore." Jonathan Dee, Harper's Magazine
“Moore tells a deeply troubling story about race and class and gender in post-9/11 America. And she does it with characteristic wit and intelligence, without letting a soul off the hook....Dazzling.” The Oregonian
Finalist for the PEN/Faulkner Award
Finalist for the Orange Prize for Fiction
Chosen as a Best Book of the Year by The New York Times Book Review, The Washington Post, Chicago Tribune, The Christian Science Monitor, Kansas City Star, Financial Times, St. Louis Post-Dispatch, and Real Simple
Twenty-year-old Tassie Keltjin, the daughter of a gentleman farmer, has come to a university town as a student. When she takes a job as a part-time nanny for a mysterious and glamorous family, she finds herself drawn deeper into their world and forever changed. Told through the eyes of this memorable narrator, A Gate at the Stairs is a piercing novel of race, class, love, and war in America.
About the Author
Lorrie Moore is the author of the story collections Birds of America, Like Life, and Self-Help and the novels Who Will Run the Frog Hospital? and Anagrams. Her work has won honors from the Lannan Foundation and the American Academy of Arts and Letters, as well as the Irish Times International Prize for Fiction, the Rea Award for the Short Story, and the PEN/Malamud Award. She is a professor of English at the University of Wisconsin in Madison.
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