A Gate at the Stairs

I read four books over the weekend; one of which was Lorrie Moore’s “A Gate at the Stairs.” After a stellar start and an okay middle, the end just utterly disappointed me.

This novel simply lacks originality. Moore fills it with cliche after cliche and the reader is tuckered out by the end.

“A Gate at the Stairs” takes place right after 9/11, when we were all a little disjointed and confused. Enter Tassie Keltjin, the novel’s main character, who is only 20. She takes a job as a nanny for a white couple who are adopted a little girl of mixed race. Tassie ends up seeing the child more than the mother does.

The husband develops a crush on the babysitter and eventually the wife wears the same perfume as Tassie. See what I mean about the book being one big cliche?

It doesn’t end there, unfortunately.

Tassie’s brother joins the army and gets killed in Afghanistan. In a heart-wrenching yet macabre scene, Tassie climbs into his coffin with his bodyparts.

Tassie falls in love with a man she thinks is Brazilian. He’s actually a Muslim and disappears rather strangely. The reader is sure he is involved in some kind of terrorist cell.

The couple Tassie works for loses the baby, whom they have renamed. Sarah and Edward are not even their real names. A horrible accident occurred, in which the parents were to blame, and their son was killed. After a court case, Sarah and Edward changed their names and relocated to the Midwest. This omission leads them to lose their adopted daughter. They do not fight for her but seem resigned to their fate. It is a kind of punishment for them yet again for their son’s tragic death.

Tassie, after her brother’s death and her unemployment, just drags along for some time. She returns to college and guess who calls her out of the blue? Yes, Edward–the husband, now separated from his wife. A cliche, I know. Another instance of a man attracted to the babysitter.

I expected more from this book. Yet, I am not willing to write off Lorrie Moore. Her “Who Will Run the Frog Hospital” is said to be worth reading.


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