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A Gate at the Stairs

3.12 of 5 stars 3.12  ·  rating details  ·  12,832 ratings  ·  2,771 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 h
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Hardcover, 322 pages
Published September 1st 2009 by Knopf (first published 2009)
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Best Books of 2009
94th out of 1,367 books — 6,723 voters
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Lauren
Dec 04, 2009 Lauren rated it 1 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: no one
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. ...more
E.J.
Feb 05, 2010 E.J. rated it 1 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: an airhead
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.
Josh Ang
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, likeabl
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Catherine
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 because that is who is speaking ; she 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 sugges ...more
Ravi Jain
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
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Amber
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 i ...more
Barbara
I was eager to read this book, especially because I have heard and read such special things about Lorrie Moore. I came to the conclusion that I really did not enjoy this, but I am hesitant to give it less than 3 stars.

Moore has presented us with a coming of age story about a young lady, Tassie, from the mid-west who has entered a small undistinguished college a few hours from her home. There were amusing moments, there were scenes of passionate sex and even a finely described dining scene. Overa
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Ed
I picked up Lorrie Moore's "A Gate At The Stairs" based on the many appearances it made on the best-of/year-end book lists for 2009. Although, while I do my best to avoid reading reviews beforehand, I couldn't help but notice the star-ratings were pretty muddy on it.

While the book was readable, I felt there was just always something very odd/off about it. Some books you know are great from the first page (or even sentence!), but "Gate" had me still hanging when I sat down to finish it. Even with
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Jennifer
I so wanted to love this book, but....I just don't think it worked. I love Lorrie Moore and was so excited to see that she had a new novel. And the reviews! They have been great. But for me, the whole thing was a mess.

The core story, in which a white family adopts a biracial baby, has potential. But the story is narrated not by anyone in that family, but, rather, by a college student who becomes their nanny. Not only was this character's voice not particularly authentic, but I couldn't figure o
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Jennie
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 more.

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
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Dori Ostermiller
I am a huge Lorrie Moore fan and gobble up everything she publishes, so I picked up this book with great anticipation. Moore is one of the most witty, entertaining and insightful prose stylists we have in contemporary fiction. She is also sharply observant of cultural insanities and inconsistencies. I loved the beginning of this novel! But about 2/3 of the way through, when the plot went haywire, I felt puzzled and disappointed. It felt like Moore didn't know how to shape this story and so start ...more
Sara
I read an uncorrected proof of this and the experience was slightly jarring - typoes, sections that repeated themselves that I wasn't sure were intentional, etc. I can't say how close my copy is to the final published version but what I read was what I've come to expect from Moore - it's funny, it's emotionally complex, the prose is easily readable while also remaining incredibly rich, and the narrative voice is compelling to follow. It details roughly one year in the life of Tassie Keltjin, a t ...more
Patricia Murphy
I love Lorrie Moore. And I liked this book. But I was talking to a writer-friend of mine, someone who has published & edited more books than most people have read, and I told him that when I got to page 200 or so of this book it "jumped the shark." He asked, "What does that mean?" and I said "I have no idea." Luckily John was in the next room and explained, "It refers to a Happy Days episode where Fonzie water skis over a shark." There. It's true. There are several sections of dialogue in th ...more
Chris
Similar to my feelings on Jonathan Lethem's latest novel, Chronic City, I think there's a lot to like about this book and there's a lot to dislike about it. At one point I was sure I was going give it four or five stars and at another point I was convinced I was going to give it one or two stars. One minute I would roll my eyes and the next minute something would resonate with me so deeply that I'd forget what it was that had annoyed me the minute before.

Stuff that really clicked for me:

- The p
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Sarah
I was surprised that I didn't much care for this book, as I love Moore's short stories. Also, I read a galley of it, so I'm not sure how much I can really responsibly say about it. But! I'll continue anyway. "A Gate at the Stairs" to me felt messy, bloated, and full of superfluous descriptions and irritating puns and jokes. Maybe I'm still too close to being a college student myself to find it interesting or exciting to look at the world through the eyes of one, but I found Tassie difficult as a ...more
K.D. Absolutely
Mar 21, 2014 K.D. Absolutely rated it 2 of 5 stars
Recommended to K.D. by: 1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die (2012 addition)
The story is about Tassie Keltjin who is 20 years old and because her parents cannot send her to school has to look for a job as a nanny. She is accepted by a strange couple, Edward who is weird and Sarah who is weirder. The couple adopted a bi-racial baby named Emmie. When Tassie enters their home and their lives she is like Lorrie Moore's eyes for us to see what's inside including what goes on in the couple's minds. Their convoluted lives are like all of us: it is sometimes chaotic, sometimes ...more
Linnea
The prose is plenty "writerly" with some compelling descriptions and the beginnings of some interesting characters, but the story veers off track about halfway through and ends up piling on so many ridiculous plot contrivances that it turns into a freak show. By the end, the only character I cared about anymore had been summarily done away with, and the book had basically self-destructed. It's odd to me that someone who writes with this much detail would be so ignorant about plot development.

I j
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christa
Lorrie Moore's "A Gate at the Stairs" falls into that tricky category of just-North-of-good -- a gray area that I struggle to write reasonable sentences about. When it comes to me, a blank page and a blinking cursor, I prefer to hate something or want to roll naked in a meadow with it, rather than just thinking it is pretty good. Honestly, I've put off writing about this book for more than two weeks, letting it simmer, giving it far more consideration than 99 percent of the other books I read, h ...more
Leslie
[Used paperback purchased at Uncharted Books on Milwaukee Avenue, Chicago, on Saturday March 3, after I enjoyed the PBR Breakfast at Longman & Eagle. The clerk was mopping up keg water from an in-store AWP event the night before.]

This is a one-star book made up of five-star sentences. How does that happen? I guess because the characters weren’t credible, consistent or frankly very interesting – more like composite sketches made up of Lorrie Moore’s best one-liners. But man, some of those one
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Megan Baxter
It has been a long time since I disliked a book this much. There was a moment on Sunday when the urge to throw it across the room and be done with it forever was so strong I had to clench my hands around the spine to keep myself from doing it. This was made more imperative by the fact that I was standing outside in a bus terminal at the time, and this was a library book.

Note: The rest of this review has been withdrawn due to the recent changes in Goodreads policy and enforcement. You can read wh
...more
Maria
Good writing at times, but author tries too hard to be clever. But then maybe I'm tired of another coming-of-age story that's slighter than it should be, and too too meandering, although it's hilarious in parts & Moore does deftly and mercilessly explore some racial/hypocrisy issues -- there she's totally on target. Loved the food descriptions but it was difficult sustaining interest -- where's Moore going here? Unfocused. Tighter more ruthless editing was required, maybe. I expected more.
Jessica
I hate this book, hate hate hate it, and I am going to stop reading now.
Shasta8sisyphus
gems so far:

A dialog between a young college student and her new employer:

"'Bach's first French suite. Do you know it?'
After some clicking and static, [the cd:] began, stately and sad. 'I think so,' I said, not sure at all. My friends had already begun to lie, to bluff a sophistication they felt that at the end of the ten-second bluff they would authentically possess. But I was not only less inclined this way but less skilled. 'Maybe not, though,' I added. Then, 'Wait, it's ringing a bell.'
'Oh
...more
Greg
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Iris
Nov 20, 2009 Iris rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommended to Iris by: Lorrie Moore at the Rain Taxi Book Festival, October 2009
Shelves: novels
An urgent novel. My impulse to savor Moore's prose was overthrown by a mania to follow it to the end of the line; I devoured it in a day. Only upon closing the book is it apparent that "A Gate at the Stairs" owes its allure to mystery. Each relationship is replete with humor, confusion and half-truths; each theme (learning, adoption/fertility, race, names, guilt) is equally significant to Moore's portrait of contemporary life, making it the rare, great fiction to depict how 9/11 and the events t ...more
Ciara
the only reason i am shelving this with the "especially great novels" is because it's lorrie moore & i love her, even though this book is kind of ridiculous. jared asked me what it was about last night & i said, "well, it's about this 20-year-old college student who takes a job as a nanny. she's nannying for this white couple that adopts a baby that is biracial, she's part-black. they think they are being good nice liberals who won't let race stand in the way of their parenting, but as t ...more
Clif Hostetler
This book conjured for me the worry that comes with being a parent dealing with the world of babysitters. Parents can take all sorts of safety measures to keep their children safe, such as installing a gate at the stairs for example. But one can’t anticipate all dangers, and there’s always a nagging fear of the unanticipated danger. The moment I first heard of the title of this book I wondered to myself, “Was there an accident?” The development of the story as described in this book includes var ...more
Imogen
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
David
Nov 29, 2009 David rated it 3 of 5 stars
Recommended to David by: david-giltinan@sbcglobal.net
Shelves: read-in-2009
This was compulsively readable, yet oddly unsatisfying. Like many readers, I find Lorrie Moore's short stories excellent, so it may be that this book suffered from the high expectations with which I approached it.

The story just didn't seem to warrant a full-length treatment as a novel - the characters, other than the narrator, were oddly two-dimensional. Actually, make that "including the narrator". Which is probably what sinks the book in the end, because the whole novel is written, to a claust
...more
Paula
Nov 17, 2009 Paula rated it 3 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Lorrie Moore fans
I think Lorrie Moore’s story collection Birds of America is one of the best American short story collections of whichever century it was published in. So after waiting for years for her to write another book, I bought this one immediately. By the time I reached the last quarter of the book, I wished she had sent out a draft to her readers for our advice before publishing it!

I disagree with other writers here who feel that Tassie is a believable character, because for me, she was part of the prob
...more
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Lorrie Moore was born in Glens Falls, New York in 1957. She attended St. Lawrence University in Canton, New York, where she tutored on an Indian reservation, and was editor of the university literary magazine and, at age 19, won Seventeen Magazine’s Fiction Contest. After graduating summa cum laude, she worked in New York for two years before going on to received a Masters in Fine Arts from Cornel ...more
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“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.” 36 likes
“When you find out who you are, you will no longer be innocent. That will be sad for others to see. All that knowledge will show on your face and change it. But sad only for others, not for yourself. You will feel you have a kind of wisdom, very mistaken, but a mistake of some power to you and so you will sadly treasure it and grow it.” 17 likes
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