Book Review: A Gate At the Stairs

A Gate At the Stairs, by Lorrie Moore

Well, I was pretty sure I would hate this book, because everything I’d read about it said how damn good it was.

Um, yeah, it’s pretty damn good.

Like, my favorite thing I’ve read in a good long time good.

So, plot synopsis:  Tassie is twenty years old and she’s a college student at big midwestern university.  She’s also a farmer’s daughter, but her father grows fancy ish stuff like heirloom potatoes and spring mix and a lot of people in her small home town don’t consider him a real farmer.  Tassie needs a part time job to pay for books and food and such while she’s at school, and so she starts working as a baby sitter for a husband and wife, Sarah and Edward, who adopt a bi racial baby.

Um, so, I don’t know how else to say that I really loved this book, but it was the sort of book that makes me just absolutely despair at being a writer because every sentence seemed so elegantly crafted.  It was funny and interesting  – Sarah is the chef owner of a fancy restaurant in Tassie’s university town and the food is both lovingly talked about and made fun of.   And all throughout there were lines that made me laugh out loud and scenes of such heartbreak that it hurt to read them.

One thing that really stuck out for me – Lorrie Moore just built this WORLD.  The scenery of the novel was so clear and compelling and detailed – you could SEE the upscale house that Sarah and Edward live in – their fancy kitchen and their nursery and their woodwork.  You could SEE Tassie’s student apartment and the neighborhoods she takes the baby walking in and the setting of the book just absolutely came to life for me, but at the same time you didn’t even realize it until it had enveloped you, really.

And Tassie – one of my favorite characters in such a long time.  Smart, but not too smart, and learning about her world and yet not ashamed to admit it.  She made me like myself better and forgive myself a little bit for who I was when I was twenty.  I loved the songs that she would make up with her roommate and I loved the way she gave herself over Emmie, the child she cares for, and I loved the way she seemed self possessed and yet horrified at the awkward around every turn.  She’s this amazing voice of reason throughout the book, and half the time I don’t think she knows it, which makes it all the more refreshing.

This book was just…masterful.  Favorite book since I can’t remember when.


10 Responses

  1. I JUST finished this book a few days ago and couldn’t agree with your review more! I was a little disappointed by the ending, but overall I thought it was amazing!

  2. There are 429 people in front of me (a FLAW in the system if you ask me) so maybe I’ll have something to say about this book in a few years. Don’t forget to ask me!

  3. Oooh, sounds pretty good. I may have to pick it up. All of a sudden though, I feel like I have like 900 books to read and I have magazines piling up on my coffee table I haven’t flipped through and AAAAAAAAAAAAAH the stress! I need on Only Reading Day where everyone just leaves me alone. I still want to know your secrets, Elizabeth! 🙂

  4. Ooh! I’ve heard so much good stuff about Lorrie Moore. I MUST get one of her books soon.

  5. You write the most “desire to read” inducing reviews!

  6. aaand reserved!

    (i’m #27 though so it might be awhile.)

  7. […] 5.  A Gate At the Stairs.  Loved it. Favorite book so far this year. […]

  8. Huh, going to have to check this one out!

  9. Hey cuz! I just finished another mediocre book and then remembered that my brilliant cousin reviews books 🙂 Thank you in advance for my next book. xoxo

  10. […] I love the description here. I kept hearing about this book and was sort of uninterested, but then Elizabeth’s Review  sort of tipped the scale, so I reserved it at the library. So far, so good. Recently Finished: […]

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