Friday, August 6, 2010

A Gate at The Stairs | Lorrie Moore

 I really enjoyed this novel as it is well constructed and well written. From the start there is a niggling sense of impending doom. I was alert to what might happen just around the corner. The style of the story reminded me of Anne Tyler, but more tense.

The main narrator is Tassie a young woman from the Midwest USA who is going to college in a slightly larger town than the one she grew up in. Her family is dysfunctional. Her mother seems to spend a lot of time convalescing in bed. In a rural town full of farmers Tassie's dad is mocked as he is a hobby farmer growing eccentric crops for restaurants in the big city. Her brother Robert seems full of potential but encumbered by his small-town view of himself so goes off into the military seeing this as a bright future. He is deployed to Afghanistan. 

Tassie needs money to live away from home while at college so applies for a job babysitting. The couple who engage her are trying to adopt and want Tassie to be part of the process. Here is where the tension mounts. Sarah and Edward seem OK but there is an underlying unease about them. Sarah is a chef who owns her own restaurant. Edward is a scientist. They end up adopting Mary Emma, an African American toddler. Tassie bonds with  Emmie as her parents become busier in their jobs and have less time for her. 
Through the story line a lot of discussion is woven in. It is definitively a post 9/11 story and the characters engage in quite a lot of dialogue regarding race issues, Islam, the state of the Nation. 

Sarah gets together with other mixed race families in the small town and they start a support group which is used as a forum for the discussions. 

Yes, tragedy and disappointed ensure. All is not well in the Midwest!
I think this is a good read, satisfying and low key though it keeps your attention.

A Gate at the Stairs

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