I wasn’t going to put A Must Read recommendation for Lorrie Moore’s new novel “A Gate at the Stairs.” Not because it wasn’t an incredible read; not because Ms. Moore didn’t create an enviable piece of contemporary literature that takes the reader back to the time immediately followed 9/11, invoking memories that still vibrate deep inside all who lived through it; and it’s not because Tassie, the twenty year old narrator mired in a small college town in the Midwest is not compelling and familiar, easily located inside all young woman who grew up surrounded by fields and proud farm boys with manure caked boots who still managed to walk with their heads high and hope in their hearts.
My resistance to recommending it was due to a belief that someone as well-known and skilled as Lorrie Moore has more than enough proclamations to her grandness—why would she need mine? Shame on me. As writers and readers, it is our duty to share the treasures we find, irregardless of the level of prestige a writer holds.
On that note, “A Gate at the Stairs,” Moore’s first book in eleven years, shows her unique and controlled voice, the novel form a larger canvas than what the craft of short fiction allows. It’s full of poignant insight that spurs the reader to consider the world they have created and inhabit. “The last house was a gray stucco house with a chimney cloaked in dead ivy. I had passed the house earlier in the week—it was on a corner lot and I’d seen so many birds there. Now there was just a flat expanse of white. Around the whiteness was a low wood Qual Line fence, and when I pushed open its gate it slipped a little; one of its hinges was loose and missing a nail. I had to lift the gate to relatch it. This maneuver, one I’d performed any number of times in my life, gave me a certain satisfaction—of tidiness, of restoration, of magic me!—when in fact it should have communicated itself as something else: someone’s ill-disguised decrepitude, items not cared for properly but fixed repeatedly in a make-do fashion, needful things gotten away from their caregiver.”
Ms. Moore’s style is not for everyone. Those who enjoy a sharp wit and even sharper intellect will find a kindred soul within the pages. “A Gate at the Stairs” demands a deep understanding of life from the characters, as well as the reader, of love given freely, only to be taken away on a whim, and life lessons learned, most the hard way.