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A Gate at the Stairs

3.12 of 5 stars 3.12  ·  rating details  ·  12,856 ratings  ·  2,772 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
Hardcover, 322 pages
Published September 1st 2009 by Knopf (first published 2009)
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Catching Fire by Suzanne CollinsThe Help by Kathryn StockettCity of Glass by Cassandra ClareAn Echo in the Bone by Diana GabaldonBlood Promise by Richelle Mead
Best Books of 2009
94th out of 1,367 books — 6,725 voters
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Books not to read
19th out of 153 books — 162 voters

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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 978)
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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
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.
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
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
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
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
I hate this book, hate hate hate it, and I am going to stop reading now.
Let me first stress this: it pains me to give Lorrie Moore one star. Pain's not a good enough word, even. It guts me. For years I've considered Lorrie Moore one of my favorite writers.

I really wanted this book, even though I hadn't enjoyed the New Yorker excerpt. Perhaps fearing I wouldn't enjoy it, I held off reading it. Then one day I sat down with *Birds of America* for the X^x time and felt moved, as ever, by some of my favorite stories in that collection (People Like That, Agnes of Iowa, Te
Pamela W
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Keep in mind I read over 2/3rds of this novel while stuck in the hopeless abyss that is Jury Duty, and though I'm certain I would've disliked it anyway, that sure didn't help.

It's a coming-of-age novel about Tassie, a 20 year-old student from "the country" who attends a university, and gets a job as a nanny. The couple she works for adopts a bi-racial baby. Tassie also dates someone of a different race. This seems to be the theme, which may be the problem -- it's a book about a theme, not people
HUGELY disappointing. After reading several disappointing books in a row, ones that had decent plots or interesting historical details but very subpar writing, I thought I was going to love this novel as I was reading the early pages. Here, I thought, is an author who can write. I almost copied out a few passages to share with a friend in a "hallelujah" email message declaring the end of my string of bad luck in picking books to read. But then the writing got cloying. She overuses metaphors, adj ...more
I read, and skimmed, and read again...usually when I don't like a book I'll simply stop reading it, but I was curious about where this book would go, so on I went. About the only believable and interesting and really readable moments were the interactions between Tassie and her little charge--two lonely kids hanging out together, or a babysitter who genuinely likes her charge with a kid who genuinely likes her babysitter, or a first-time mom not sure if she'll bond and the baby who wins
Once more, goodreads' whole-stars-only rating system gets in the way of an honest review, for if I could have, I would have given this much heralded book no more than 1.5 stars. However, since there are no halfway measures, and to show how totally disappointed I was by this book, I opted to rate it down rather than up.

Over the past few months I'd seen many reviews of this book in publications I usually trust, such as The New Yorker and the NYT, all lavishly praised the author, the writing and mo
Amber Anderson
Sep 07, 2009 Amber Anderson rated it 1 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: don't read this, even if you think you love Lorrie Moore.
Shelves: novels, books-i-hated
I love Lorrie Moore's stories and I really, really liked Who will Run the Frog Hospital so when I heard about A Gate at the Stairs I became a little excited. And when I scored an Advance Reader Copy from work, I was so happy!

Okay, so before I got the book I read the excerpt from this novel in the New Yorker and really liked it. But really, where the excerpt ended, the story should have ended.

Once the couple adopts their baby it becomes less of a novel and more of Lorrie Moore forcing her sociol
Tassie Keltjin, the main character in this novel, is a 20 year old student at a Wisconsin college. She lands a job as a nanny for an unusual couple who are in the process of adopting a bi-racial child. As the story unfolds, the theme of people not actually being what they present themselves to be is explored in different ways. At times, the writing is witty, but I found it cumbersome. I did not particularly like Tassie Keltjin, so the ultimate failure of the novel for me, was that the deceptions ...more
I would never, never, never, never, never, never, never, never, never, never
-- hang on, I need to get some water --
never, never, never, never, never, never, never, never, never, never, NEVER recommend this book to anyone. (And yet, I still believe Lorrie Moore is a good author.)

This book has two big problems: punning and plot. Moore is almost synonymous with punning but here it goes past the saturation point. Different characters try to impress each other with puns (and they DO!). Streets are dr
One sentence review: Don't bother with a lame book that alludes to 'Jane Eyre'; toss it aside and read 'Jane Eyre.' More impressions below.

I was alternately cringing or shaking my head with incredulity throughout this book. The characters lacked substance, heart, motivation, and interest. I did like two things about it. First, I enjoyed the hilarious dinner party chit chat about race; and second, I found the funeral scene moving and memorable. It was very well written, but I can think of at leas
How on earth could this be chosen as a NYTimes pick for the best books of 2009??

A Gate at the Stairs is a novel by a writer whose finest work can be found in the short story form (see Birds of America). I wanted to love this, but was greatly disappointed. A fractured and incomplete central plot, richly drawn characters abandoned, poorly drawn characters hauled in later in what seems like a separate short story altogether, the 20-something musings of a clearly sensitive, bright narrator who is al
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
B. Morrison
The first couple of pages of this novel made me chuckle and look forward to a great read. However, round about page 50 I debated about giving up on the tedious plot. At page 100, terminally bored, I put the book down. I picked it up again a few days later only because it was my book club’s pick for the month.

It begins as Tassie, a college student in Troy, New York, is looking for a job that will start at the beginning of January term. Coming from the small town of Dellacrosse, Troy seems dazzlin
There are some laugh-out-loud funny lines in here (I listened on audio on an airplane, so can't write them down as I have nothing to refer back to). That some of the actions of Tessie are peculiar and not well thought out just remind me of being 20 and trying to figure things out and making bad decisions at times along the way.

By the halfway point, the book just had too much detail that I was bored. I kept with it, but knowing every thought of the protagonist is overbearing. Also, it is hard to
If I could give it less than one star, I would. Shockingly, my low-star rating has nothing to do with the adoption storyline. I found that to be mostly interesting, if slightly cliched. The absentee father bit -- birth and adoptive -- is overdone. We already saw the skeezy, creepy adoptive dad in Juno, so that was absolutely unnecessary. The neurotic adoptive mom was equally overplayed. But I liked the story and how it all played together. Even though the author didn't come up with new ways to f ...more
Overrated...simply horrible. I cannot believe the good reviews this is getting--it's like we read different books. The protag.'s voice is not believable and hits false notes all over the place. The characters are very unlikeable and make me want scream. It's like Lorrie Moore while writing this book jotted down ideas as she went a long and then tried without success to paste them together into a book and so it's very piecey and not cohesive. Moore's derisive and unkind view of the town and state ...more
I read this book a couple of weeks ago, and I've been "sitting" on it, trying to find something to say about this book. All I can offer is the truth--I did not, in any way, connect with this book. The characters weren't presented in a way I could make them "real" for me, the story seemed strained and implausible, with minutia going on for pages upon pages while major plot and/or character reveals were handled in a sentence or two--if they were lucky. I sloughed through it because it was on the I ...more
I loved the writing in this book - I read parts of it out loud some of the lines were that good! - but I had to put it down. There was barely a moment when I believed that the character was having the thoughts that narrated the book. It never felt even close to real. These were mostly the thoughts of a very insightful, creative, intelligent, mature woman (hmmm... maybe Lorrie Moore?), not the thoughts of a 20 year-old college student who grew up on a farm in a tiny Midwest town. And also, no, sh ...more
Jan 30, 2010 Tasha rated it 1 of 5 stars
Shelves: 2010
Girl gets job as nanny for liberal, crazy, selfish couple.

Couple is despicable despite their best intentions.

The Bush era ruined lives.

The end.


After a few hours of rumination...

My dismissive summary could easily be applied to other books I've fawned over. Quite simply, my expectations weren't met. Another reading may open my eyes to Moore's phrasing and.... see? I can't think of any other possible redemptions.

Sometimes a book is just a book.
Oh, Lorrie Moore. What a disaster. I'm so disappointed. How could such a wonderful writer go so, so, so wrong?

I think we can all take something away from this clunky vehicle for every possible hot-button cultural concern of the past decade. Two things, actually:

1) If you feel compelled to write fiction that has anything remotely to do with 9/11, THINK VERY LONG AND HARD before you actually put pen to paper.

2) One ludicrous plot twist = shame on you. Two ludicrous plot twists = seriously, shame
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Maybe this would have been easier to digest as a read, but the audio left me wondering what the adulation was about. I found the narrator extremely irritating, assuming the reader captured her essence, and the book could have been a lengthy magazine article for all the depth contained in it. I must be getting too old to relate to the younger generation.
I waited and waited for something to happen in this book.
The bottom line is that not much happens in this book, and when it does, you don't really care.

Save yourself some time and don't enter a gate at the stairs. And shame on the NY Times Review of Books for calling this one of the best books of 2009. It must've been a slow year.
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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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