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BOOK BIZ — University life and coming of age altered after 9/11

» A Gate at the Stairs By Lorrie Moore Published by Vintage Books, division of Random House $15.00 paperback

» A Gate at the Stairs
By Lorrie Moore
Published by Vintage Books, division of Random House
$15.00 paperback

As much as I enjoy reading books set in other countries and eras, in the spirit of variety I try to read some books set in this country and in a contemporary time period. A Gate at the Stairs takes place in a university town in Wisconsin and on a farm in a rural part of the state. It’s a coming-of-age story of a young woman in the Midwest in the months following the tragedy of 9/11.

We go along as Tassie Keltjin leaves the farm where she grew up, is exposed to new ideas and people at the large university, experiences first love and heart break, and takes a job as a part-time nanny for a glamorous and mysterious family. Tassie is the heretofore sheltered daughter of a gentleman farmer. As 9/11 and events following it change the U.S. and the world, so does Tassie’s world change.

She is drawn into the strange world of her employers and the biracial baby they adopt. She falls for a fellow student of middle eastern descent who’s revealed to have questionable activities. Her younger brother barely gets out of high school before joining the Army to fight terrorism; his opportunities for work and advancement being almost nil in the family’s small town.

Following some harrowing experiences, Tassie returns home for a summer of helping her father on the farm. She is now a different person with an altered world view and can find no common ground with former school mates.

Not surprisingly, Lorrie Moore is a professor of English at the University of Wisconsin in Madison. In this book her writing is smooth and precise with dark humor thrown in for levity. She leads us along with Tassie, feeling her searching and growing. Published in 2009, A Gate at the Stairs was a New York Times Book Review Best Book of the Year. Moore is the author of other novels and story collections, including Who Will Run the Frog Hospital?, Anagrams, Birds of America, Like Life and Self-Help. She has won several writing awards including the Irish Times International Prize for Fiction.

— Lynn Lofton, mbj@msbusiness.com


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