A Gate at the Stairs

Publisher: Anchor Canada
Lyrical, devastatingly funny, wise, and beguiling, A Gate at the Stairs is Lorrie Moore’s most ambitious book to date.

The long-awaited new novel from one of the most heralded writers of the past thirty years, A Gate at the Stairs is a book of stunning power.

Set just after the events of September 2001, it is a story about Tassie Keltjin, a twenty-year-old making her way in a new world and coming of age. Tassie is a “smile-less” girl from the plains of the mid-west. She has come to a university town, her brain on fire with Chaucer, Sylvia Plath, and Simone de Beauvoir. In between semesters, she takes a part-time job as a nanny for a family that seems mysterious and glamorous to her. Though her liking for children tends to dwindle into boredom, Tassie begins to care for, and protect, their newly adopted little girl as her own. As the year unfolds, she is drawn even deeper into the world of the child and her hovering parents, and her own life back home becomes alien to her. As life reveals itself dramatically and shockingly, Tassie finds herself forever changed — less the person she once was, and more and more the stranger she feels herself to be.

Under the novel’s languid surface, Moore’s deft and lyrical writing skillfully illustrates the heart of racism, the shock of war, and the carelessness perpetrated against others in the name of love. It is the novel for our time.

From the Hardcover edition.



The cold came late that fall and the songbirds were caught off guard. By the time the snow and wind began in earnest, too many had been suckered into staying, and instead of flying south, instead of already having flown south, they were huddled in people’s yards, their feathers puffed for some modicum...
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1. In addition to her sense of humor and intelligence, what are Tassie's strengths as a narrator? How does what she describes as “an unseemly collection of jostling former selves” (p. 63) affect the narrative and contribute to the appeal of her tale?

2. In the farming community where Tassie grew up,...

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“In this luminous, heart-wrenchingly wry novel … Moore's graceful prose considers serious emotional and political issues with low-key clarity and poignancy, while generous flashes of wit…endow this stellar novel with great heart.”
Publishers Weekly (starred review)

“Moore may be, exactly, the most irresistible contemporary American writer: brainy, humane, unpretentious and warm; seemingly effortlessly lyrical; Lily-Tomlin-funny.… For many readers, the fact that Moore has now relieved an 11-year publishing hiatus is reason enough to start Google-mapping a route to the nearest surviving bookstore."
— Jonathan Lethem, The New York Times

Praise for Lorrie Moore:
“Moore writes with such psychological precision, such sharp, unsentimental knowledge of her characters’ hopes and fears that she is able to invest these…situations with a heartfelt understanding of the precariousness of everyday life, its unexpected losses and terrors.”
— Michiko Kakutani, The New York Times

“Marvelous, fiercely funny…. One of her generation’s wittiest and shrewdest writers.”

“Astonishing…. Moore is so good at trapping each moment in perfect, precise detail, so masterful at cynicism and wryness that her moments of poignancy and sweetness catch us completely off guard.”
San Francisco Chronicle

“Moore peers into America’s loneliest perches, but her delicate touch turns absurdity into a warming vitality.”
The New Yorker

From the Hardcover edition.