Friday, January 22, 2010

A Gate at the Stairs by Lorrie Moore

I am always wary of a book that receives a lot of hype, especially if we are talking about an author with whom I have only a slight familiarity. Such is the case with Lorrie Moore. I know some of her short stories and a few essays, but A Gate at the Stairs is the first of her novels I have read. The cover of the “advanced reader’s edition” claims this is “a book of stunning power.” Hardly.

Tassie Keltjin is a twenty-something college student who responds to an ad for child care, and winds up in tangled webs between her job and her boyfriend. Okay, everybody has a secret – some darker than others – but that has been done to death.

While I will not deny the book was well-written – the prose is lyrical and many nice and even wonderful images abound – I think this cover praise is a bit excessive. I will also admit the characters are a bit interesting, but one, at least, remains dangling at the end of the story. The ending contains quite a surprise, but I cannot figure, with any certainty, how it fits into this coming of age novel. Tassie seems remarkably insightful and mature for someone who goes from a potato farm run by her father to a large university, yet she is still “coming of age,” as the cover also tells us.

This is not a book I will buy in hardcover. If you have never read her, I would wait for the paperback or try some of the short stories first. 3 stars.

--Chiron, 1/17/10

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