Leave Me Alone, I'm Reading: A Gate At The Stairs by Lorrie Moore

Tessa Bright Wildsmith
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Tassie Keltjin is a potato farmer’s daughter. She’s been raised in a small Midwestern town with nothing but her books to show her the rest of the world. As she goes off to college, her head is filled with Chaucer and Sylvia Plath. She’s full of ideas and independence.

College is somewhat of a shock. Life away from her family is surprisingly lonely. She applies for a job as a nanny for a couple who are adopting a daughter. These people are slightly strange, yet exciting. Tassie takes this on as just a job but soon comes to love the little girl as her own. As Tassie grows closer with this family, and with the little girl, her life back home seems more and more foreign. The United States is gearing up for war in the Middle East. Her brother is aimless as he nears high school graduation and considers joining the military. Her parents seem strange and old to Tassie.

As the months pass on, deeply buried pasts and well-kept secrets surface and Tassie’s life will change forever. Tassie gets a glimpse at how cruel and racist people can be, even in a liberal college town. She learns how blind and naïve people can be until the costs of war hit home. She sees how people are capable of the most unbelievable things in the name of love.

Moore has written a book that looks at many different issues, all intertwined in this young girl’s life. Tassie is witty, smart and honest. She had so much depth to her. She is a well-crafted character all the way through.

Moore’s writing is some of the best I’ve ever read. She made me laugh. She made me mad. She made me cry. There’s no great mystery to solve in this book, but Moore kept me flipping pages late into the night. The book is perfectly paced and never got boring or slow. Moore’s writing is perfectly crafted. I’m a big fan of hers after reading “A Gate At The Stairs.”

Moore has taken a look at race, love, war and family in post-9/11 America. Tassie’s journey shows that sometimes the best lessons are the ones you have to learn first-hand the hard way. “A Gate At The Stairs” is funny and smart, witty and wise, and is definitely a must read.

Have you read “A Gate At The Stairs?” Discuss your thoughts on the book below.

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