A Gate at the Stairs is set in the American Midwest and follows twenty-year-old Tassie as she begins work as a child minder. She is hired by a glamorous couple who are about to adopt a mixed race child. The couple seem more interested in running their restaurant business than becoming a proper family and so Tassie has the complex task of keeping the peace in an increasingly chaotic home.
I was immediately struck by the beauty of the language in this book. Everything was described in detail, so I built up a vivid picture of their surroundings.
For the first 50 pages I was happy with this scene setting, but I gradually began to crave a plot. Very little seemed to happen in the book and, on the odd occasion it did, the event seemed to drag on for far too long. I ploughed on through the beautiful text, but I’m afraid that the entire plot could be summarised in about 6 words (don’t worry I won’t spoil it for you!).
The main theme of the book is what it is to be a family. Discussions on adoption, working parents and mixed race relationships are all buried somewhere in the text, but you have to read a lot of waffle to find them.
This book reminded me of Digging to America by Anne Tyler (which I didn’t really like) but I think that A Gate at the Stairs is the better of the two books – just!
Overall I’m afraid that the lack of a real plot meant this book failed to entertain me.
Opinions on this book are very mixed:
Lorrie Moore’s writing is beautiful: lyrical but without ever detracting from the events of the story. Other Stories
…the different storylines and sections of the book were disjointed… I’m Booking It
I had the feeling that I was experiencing a very good writer not at her best. Kevin From Canada