Feature

Novel of the week: A Gate at the Stairs by Lorrie Moore

<em>A Gate at the Stairs</em> is Lorrie Moore's first book since her best-selling <em>Birds of America</em> 11 years ago, and, says Jonathan Lethem, well worth the wait.

(Knopf, $25.95)

Lorrie Moore may be America’s “most irresistible” living writer, said Jonathan Lethem in The New York Times. “Brainy, humane, unpretentious, and warm,” she’s at once “Lily Tomlin–funny” and “seemingly effortlessly lyrical.” While she puns more than most top-flight authors would dare to, her first book since the best-selling Birds of America was worth the 11-year wait. Such “aggressive cleverness” can become distracting, said Stephanie Zacharek in Salon.com. In 20-year-old Tassie Keltjin, a bright farm girl newly hired to nanny the adopted first child of a liberal university-town couple, Moore has created an appealing narrator. But “there’s so much tap-dancing” in Moore’s prose that her story’s bigger themes get buried. Gate’s playful tone is deceiving, said Ron Charles in The Washington Post. Behind it reside “profound reflections” on every young person’s “baffling, hilarious, brutal initiation to adult life.” Gate may be unusual in form, but it also might “expand your sense of what a novel can do.”

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