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A Gate at the Stairs

3.15  ·  Rating details ·  16,178 ratings  ·  3,160 reviews
A novel on the anxiety and disconnection of post-9/11 America, on the insidiousness of racism, the blind-sidedness of war, and the recklessness thrust on others in the name of love.

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 T
Paperback, 336 pages
Published August 24th 2010 by Vintage (first published September 1st 2009)
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Sondra The first book I read of hers was "Self Help" and it is still one of my favorites (short stories).

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3.15  · 
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 ·  16,178 ratings  ·  3,160 reviews

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Megan Baxter
Sep 26, 2012 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
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Note: The rest of this review has been withdrawn due to the recent changes in Goodreads policy and enforcement.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
B the BookAddict
Oct 17, 2013 rated it really liked it
Recommended to B the BookAddict by: Goodreads
Shelves: fiction
A Gate at the Stairs is The new York Times' One Of The Best Books Of The Year winners as well as various other literary awards and nominations.

I'd liken Lorrie Moore to a cross between Zoë Heller and Lionel Shriver; this novel is insightful, comic, thought-provoking and tragic; beautifully rendered with some gorgeous turn of phrase.

Tassie is a wonderfully touching character you come to love and admire; she's a twenty year old who, while being somewhat naive with guys, is also surprisingly matu
Oct 01, 2009 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
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
Josh Ang
Jan 25, 2011 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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
Sep 14, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Aug 30, 2009 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
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
Nov 05, 2010 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
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
Glenn Sumi
Jun 19, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Lorrie Moore takes on a lot – possibly too much – in her third novel: race, class, war and post-9/11 anxiety. But her sharp eye, beautifully attuned ear for language and wry sense of humour help the novel over even its roughest patches.

It’s the coming of age story of Midwestern college student Tassie Keltjin, who in the fall of 2001 takes on a part-time job as a nanny to help pay for school. Her employers are the 40-ish Sarah Brink, the liberal, highly strung chef and owner of a high-end French
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
Aug 28, 2009 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Nov 14, 2009 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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
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
Nov 07, 2009 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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
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
Patricia Murphy
Mar 05, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
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
Sara Batkie
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
Jan 07, 2009 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-in-2009
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
Sep 13, 2009 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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
Sep 09, 2009 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: aborted-efforts
I hate this book, hate hate hate it, and I am going to stop reading now.
Jan 10, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
K.D. Absolutely
Nov 05, 2012 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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
Pamela W
Feb 13, 2010 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jan 26, 2010 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
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
Apr 03, 2011 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.
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
Apr 04, 2012 rated it liked it
[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
Nov 18, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Iris by: Lorrie Moore at the Rain Taxi Book Festival, October 2009
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
Mar 08, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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.'
Clif Hostetler
Jul 27, 2010 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: novel
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
Aiden Heavilin
A Gate at the Stairs is a mediocre soap opera with terrific cinematography. Even as it delves into rushed, haphazard melodrama, Lorrie Moore's vivid writing remains as impressive as ever. She has a way of evoking exceptionally nuanced and beautiful images without drawing attention to her own writing, of illustrating a movie in the reader's mind. Too bad about the quality of the movie.

Moore said in an interview she wanted to put "Everything interesting" into this book, and the unfocused nature is
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what do you think is the center of the story? 7 46 Jan 18, 2015 08:31PM  
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Only $14.61 at! 1 5 Jan 15, 2010 09:14AM  

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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
“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.” 51 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.” 24 likes
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