Finalist for the PEN/Faulkner Award Finalist for the Orange Prize for Fiction Chosen as a Best Book of the Year by The New York Times Book Review, The Washington Post, Chicago Tribune, The Christian Science Monitor, Kansas City Star, Financial Times, St. Louis Post-Dispatch, and Real Simple
Twenty-year-old Tassie Keltjin, the daughter of a gentleman farmer, has come to a university town as a student. When she takes a job as a part-time nanny for a mysterious and glamorous family, she finds herself drawn deeper into their world and forever changed. Told through the eyes of this memorable narrator, A Gate at the Stairs is a piercing novel of race, class, love, and war in America.
In a recent talk, Lorrie Moore suggested that 20 is "the universal age of passion" -- the point at which the unique shape and expression of our feelings like love and disgust and fury becomes fixed. It is also, she observed, the perceptual halfway point of most people's existence. Our first two decades seem to pass as slowly as the whole of the rest of our lives, according to scientists, so that our early experiences carry vastly more psychic weight than those of adulthood.
It's interesting to consider the impact of Moore's own work by this metric, and not only because A Gate at the Stairs is narrated by a 20-year-old. Since the publication of her first collection, Self-Help, in 1985, so many readers have identified with Moore's witty, cynical, and yearning failed-relationship stories at a similarly impressionable stage that her writing has become as formative an influence on American fiction as her hero John Updike's was in an earlier era.