Maia's Reviews > Through the Children's Gate: A Home in New York

Through the Children's Gate by Adam Gopnik
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Sep 28, 2010

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bookshelves: memoirs-and-bios
Read in September, 2010

I received this book from a friend when, after years of living in NYC, I finally left--and nobody could believe it. I've always noticed that about NY (I lived there since I was 17): everyone complains and dreams of moving out, but no one believes anyone would actually do it (though people do, constantly). So I kept the book, through a move to the West and then here to Europe, without ever reading it. I'd read--with enjoyment--a few of Gopnik's pieces in The New Yorker but for the most part, I judged this to be a yuppy, overly privileged Woody Allen sort of thing: look how happy my love is, I live in the best city in the world!

Well, it sort of is and sort of isn't. For starters, the whole book is under the unavoidable shadow of 9/11--which changed everything forever, as I know since I was there and my then boyfriend-now husband worked 2 blocks away. Gopnik's handling of this delicate shadow is moving and realistic. Also, the Gopnik's New York is a lived-in New York, an experienced one, of the adult, the parent, the husband. It's not the NY you see via Hollywood movies or TV shows (take any 'Friends' episode, and nothing in it is true!) where 30-something hold implausible jobs, wear unaffordable clothing and live in non-existent apartments! Having walked the streets mentioned by Gopnik and having shared those experiences--as a woman, a mother, a wife--I related completely and I could feel it, sense it, see the city.

On the other hand, there are two minuses that prevent me from giving the book 4 stars: one, there's little mention of the 'other' NY: the stress, the narrowness, the crap for your money equation. Even when you're past that stage and can afford not to deal with it daily, it's still there, always, somewhere in the back. And two, Gopnik's writing is uneven. He's no Joan Didion, for eg. There are incredibly lyrical and thought-provoking passages with some incredibly bogged-down, hard to read ones.

In all, however, it works. I'm looking forward to trying his first book now, about Paris.
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