Vikki's Reviews > A Gate at the Stairs

A Gate at the Stairs by Lorrie Moore
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's review
Sep 06, 2011

it was amazing
bookshelves: 2011reads
Read from August 19 to September 06, 2011

this was my first lorrie moore novel, having read quite a bit of her short fiction, and it is quite impressive. it was described to me as one of the first novels to directly address the events of september 11, so i expected that issue to figure more prominently in the story than it actually does. more than 9/11 specifically, this book addresses the war in afghanistan, and some of the ways that american attitudes toward race changed after the first major terrorist attack on american soil (unless you count the first WTC bombing). more than anything, though, this is a coming of age novel that explores race, parenthood, love, loss, and attachment. it is an emotionally powerful and (to me at least) unexpectedly wrenching story--if you are sensitive to tragedy that touches children, know that you will find it here. i was moved by the book and compelled to finish it even after it became painful to read, but i give this book 5 stars with some reservations. lorrie moore's voice is very distinctive, and most of the time that works for her, but a whole novel's worth of it can be a bit much. i wouldn't go so far as to say that she should stick to short stories, because what she accomplishes with this novel is beautiful, but things like the precious dialogue, the somewhat forced motif from which the book derives its title, and the over-the-top didacticism of the overheard support group comments really grated on me after a while. moore has, i gather, a deep familiarity with life in academia, but the details of that insular world don't often play out all that well in fiction. still, this is a book worth reading, by an underrated author.

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