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Object Lessons

3.79 of 5 stars 3.79  ·  rating details  ·  5,677 ratings  ·  193 reviews
It is the 1960s, in suburban New York City, and twelve-year-old Maggie Scanlan begins to sense that despite the calm surface of her peaceful life, everything is going strangely wrong.

When her all-powerful grandfather is struck down by a stroke, the reverberations affect Maggie's entire family. Her normally dispassionate father breaks down, her mother becomes distant and un
Paperback, 336 pages
Published March 22nd 1992 by Ivy Books (first published April 9th 1991)
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Marcie Crandall
I forced myself to "muddle" through this one because I feel like I have given up on so many books lately. It seems that for every good book, there are 100 terrible books (this one falls into the latter category). I don't even reccomend anyone. Sorry.
Carol Storm
Anna Quindlen has many gifts, but subtlety is not one of them. Nor is originality. Just about every character and plot device in this novel has been used before -- many, many times before. Oddly, for a hell-on-wheels nagging feminista, Anna Quindlen seems unduly influenced by male authors (and cliches.) She steals much, but understands little.

Let's see, a family saga about a wealthy immigrant clan ruled by a shady, all-powerful patriarch. GODFATHER, anyone? Just as John Scanlan is clearly Don V
I rate this book a solid "fine". Quindlen's first book, it lacks the devastating plot points of her later work. I thought it made for pleasant reading without much to provoke thought or feeling.
12 year old Maggie Scanlan has one of those pivotal summers that people in books always seem to have. I enjoyed the book - it is well written and never dull. I am also of that generation which was 12 years old about the same time as Maggie so I could relate to some of it - and some not. Maybe because I grew up on the West Coast and was not a Catholic kid in New York, maybe because I was patently out of the loop (or backward) when I was 12, I have a hard time believing in what to me are implausib ...more
Jen Mays
(rating 3.5)

Maggie is a young teenager caught on the threshold of establishing her identity. She's a child, but growing into a young woman, confronted suddenly by confusions such as peer pressure, popularity, and boys in a world that had seemed so calm. She's torn between two families: the well-to-do snobs of her father's lineage who seem to excel at looking down on others while failing to smell their own stink, and the more humble immigrants that her mother escaped from by getting pregnant bef
Quindlen has a way of making me like her, but I'm not sure why. This book was hurkey jerky in its story and the grandfather Mr. Scanlan made me mad. But even though I didn't love the story, Quindlen will sometimes write an insight from a character that will make me gasp-and consequently understand myself more!!

The insight in this story was when Margaret told Tommy to leave his mother alone when she couldn't decide on the details of a funeral. Margaret said, "It's called displacement. You focus o
I enjoyed this. I am not a student of the mid-60s in any way, but I do recognize that this book is an extremely narrow portrayal of human experience at that time. I found, however, the characters to be well-written and their dramas to be realistic and I thought Quindlen took a very narrow world and deepened it so that, even though we were not provided much outside of that world, we were given a very three-dimensional view of it.

I liked how Quindlen presented a time period of change from the vie
What does it mean to grow up and come into your own? This is the question Maria Goretti ("Maggie") Scanlan wrestles with during the summer she becomes a teenager. As we follow her journey through that summer we learn it's not a question she wrestles with alone. Her mother, Connie, newly pregnant with the fifth Scanlan baby, feels like a black, Italian sheep in the strongly Irish clan she married into. Largely ignored by her in-laws, but never feeling terribly close to her own parents, either, sh ...more
A coming of age novel, both in a literal and figurative sense. Young and old alike, the characters all realized in the end that whatever effect that other people have on them - genetically or otherwise, it is what they decide on what or who they will become that matters.

The narrative was well put together, but I am a little bit wanting for more dialogue. Paragraphs seem to be unending, and they almost always lulled me to sleep.
Tommy Scanlan, 3rd son of a domineering, iron fisted Irish Catholic marries the most beautiful girl in his world, much to his father's dismay because Connie is Italian. This is a problem for Jack Scanlan in 1960's Irish Catholic suburban New York City. The rest of his children follow his directives, marry the women he chooses and work for him. He's the patriarch and makes no bones about it, there's a correct way to do things and Tommy's not following the rules, in fact, Tommy has branched out on ...more
This book was very quiet and thoughtful. It's a coming of age, so the main focus is on the sweeping changes in the lives of a mother and daughter over the course of a summer. It's about finding your voice, about learning to accept and love who you are, about breaking away from constraint and oppression to find fulfillment even if that means simply realizing that you've had the things you've wanted all along. This book is full of strong, smart, amazing female characters. Set in the 60s, the setti ...more
While I loved that is was essentially a feminist coming of age story, I had heard so many great things about Anna Quindlen that I expected to like it more than I did.
I am surprised that I did not love this book more. It was good, don't get me wrong, but I was expecting to not be able to put it down. I was expecting one of those really easy to lose yourself in books. I had started another of her books a few months ago while I was waiting for someone in the library. I was really drawn into that book, and wished that I was at a point where it was practical for me to start reading another book. But I wasn't, so I left it in the library, thinking "when summer com ...more
Some of the reviews that I read said that this book moved too slow for them and they gave up on it. I think that if you are the type of person who likes to be pulled in immediately by the story and dislikes when so much of the story takes place in the characters head (i.e. thoughts), then you would probably not care for this book. But I like books that pull you into the motives behind the actions. However, I wasn't completely gripped until page 188
The main character is Maggie Scanlan, but we a
May 19, 2008 Becky rated it 3 of 5 stars
Recommended to Becky by: Patricia Mavor
This book teaches that we are always in a phase of learning and discovery about ourselves, our relationships, and our environment. I would like to say it is mainly a coming of age story, but the mother and father are also learning lessons. Quindlen has a marvelous way of expressing feelings that we experience as we learn these lessons. The second quote (I typed below) rang SO true to me, it was like she could read my mind.

"...and Maggie had lost the knack
As a long time fan of Anna Quindlen I missed reading this first novel of hers somewhere along the line. Found a copy in a used book store and decided to read it. It's not as polished as her later books, but a well rounded look at one wealthy Catholic family headed by a domineering male. The long term effects of his power and expectations color the whole family from his sons and daughter to his grandchildren. A wonderful tale of changes and triumphs.
Enjoyable read, but I would have loved to be able to connect more with the characters. It was like the author intended you to get right in their heads, but Tommy is the only one you really understand - side characters such at Celeste, Debbie and Helen are easier to "know" than Maggie, Connie or Mary Frances.

A tad slow sometimes, the writing style is nonetheless enjoyable and the insights at the end were meaningful for me.
This is Quindlen's first published book, 1991. A bit slow moving considering her later novels. Not sure how I would have felt had I actually read this first. It's sort of a coming of age novel with the 12-year old protagonist, Maggie, showing more maturity than her age. She actually thinks! Something I wonder if kids today do! LOL.
Shirley Payne
Strong Americana story. Lots of whining. Oh to have grown up in comfort and affluence. Having worked all of the time my kids were growing up and gone to night school thru a lot of their childhood, just can't relate to these "poor me" full time Moms that get to stay at home w their kids and not worry about feeding them too.
Oct 14, 2014 Alison added it
Bildungsroman . Maggie grows from girl to woman over one summer as her previous best friend seeks more excitement, a cousin falls pregnant by mistake, her mother dares to start to build a life and be herself and her overbearing grandfather dies,. a pivotal time for the community. nicely done and very readable.
I love Anna Quindlen and was pleased to find this book - her debut novel. I'm only giving it 3 stars however as it fell a little short of my expectations. If I had read it first I'd have probably rated it higher, but she obviously developed and surpased herself over the years and going backwards made me more critical. It might just be me, but I found the story jumped around so much I was never sure if I missed a page and would frequently turn back to be sure. The characters were amazing. Real, a ...more
Decent coming of age story, which is one of my favorite genres, aside from memories. I like Anna Quindlen but this book didn't "capture" me the way her other books. One True Thing was amazing. This was just okay.

Don't get me wrong - I *liked* it but I didn't fall into it the way one does with books. I found myself reading it and then needing to go back and read it again b/c my mind was wandering. Bad sign.

I did appreciate the story and the charactes. If there's one thing that Anna Quindlen doe
I always enjoy Anna Quindlen and I read this book in the early 90's. The new lessons, phrases and ideas this re-read sparked, however, really surprised me. I guess "ages and stages" in life really does make a difference in what will resonate with a reader. Great read. Again.
Beth Gordon
During a hot summer full of family drama, 12 year old Maggie finds herself.

The story often read like it was giving back story, and you find yourself surprised when you're at the end. It felt like it was a lot of meandering.
I'm trying to read all this author's books as I love the way she writes about families and relationships. This was her first novel and the story about a large Irish-Catholic family in the late 1960s does not disappoint.
I really like Quindlen's writing. This book was very different from her latest book, Every Last One in terms of subject, tone, setting, etc., but in both novels the writing shines through. In Quindlen balances three different main characters, each struggling to find their place in a large, over-bearing extended family over the course of one summer. Quindlen allows them to learn and change over the course of the book, so that they are much more complex than they first seemed to be. I also liked t ...more
to quote another goodreads reviewer this was a solid book that was not necessarily thought provoking. I emjoyed reading it but was able to put it down at times. Bit predictable and at times I was wanting more.
Innocuous but engagingly written, this coming-of-age tale captures the emotions of girl on the cusp of adolescence. It's a time when alliances shift, roles get redefined, relationships change, insecurities arise, and you start to figure out that adults don't have all the answers. (And some are even unwilling to confront the questions.) A nice, easy read, especially for women over 30 seeking a hit of nostalgia.
I loved this book. Although I've never been a member of an Irish-Italian family in the Northeast US in the 60s, Quindlen writes in a way that makes it all feel true and familiar, as if she were your best friend and you knew all about her already.
Sooooo simplistic and shallow. Quindlen made her name as a sort of journalist.... opinion pieces & such.
Fiction is not her forte. Draaaagggged out.
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Anna Quindlen is an American journalist and opinion columnist whose New York Times column, Public and Private, won the Pulitzer Prize for Commentary in 1992.

She began her journalism career in 1974 as a reporter with The New York Post. Between 1977 and 1994 she held several posts at the New York Times. She left journalism in 1995 to become a full-time novelist. She currently writes a bi-weekly colu
More about Anna Quindlen...
Black and Blue One True Thing Still Life with Bread Crumbs Every Last One Lots of Candles, Plenty of Cake

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“The beginning and the end are never really the journey of discovery for me. It is the middle that remains a puzzle until well into the writing. That's how life is most of the time, isn't it? You know where you are and where you hope to wind up. It's the getting there that's challenging.” 10 likes
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