Sunday, March 21, 2010

A Gate at the Stairs, by Lorrie Moore

I began this post last week, but rather than finishing it I kept moving on to other reviews. After taking stock of my lack of progression I had to admit it: I was having an issue. Why the procrastination? My ambivalence was rooted in the fact that I recommended A Gate at the Stairs to a close friend, who ended up not loving it. I felt terrible, like I had set up a blind date that bombed. Not that I've ever set anyone up. And I hope I never do - jeez, what responsibility! Still, every time I recommend a book I feel like I'm asking the would-be reader to take a chance. Invest a few hours. These days time feels so precious, that to ask a friend to give up even this relatively small amount of time feels akin to asking her to put herself out there on a blind date.

To add insult to injury, it turns out that the book summary printed on the back of the audio version is inaccurate. Kind of off-putting.

In A Gate at the Stairs, Tassie Keltjin is a young, Midwestern college student who gets a job as a nanny for a couple who are in the process of adopting a biracial baby. Tassie is not overly ambitious, has a bit of a slacker mentality, but she's clever and funny and is a keen observer of those around her. She's young and naive, coming-of-age and facing complex situations. I fell in love with Tassie, I understood the way she thought and her stupefied confusion at the craziness going on around her.

There were a lot of suspenseful subplots in Moore's new book, and not all of which wove together neatly. Some of these strands landed way far afield from here I expected them to, or fizzled out altogether. Still, with a character so wry and engaging, I couldn't help but love this story. Once I fall in love with a book's protagonist, I'm a goner; I can't help but love the book.

I am two-thirds of the way through Lit, by Mary Karr, and I feel confident I'll be able to recommend it without any reservation.

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