A Gate at the Stairs by Lorrie Moore
College freshman Tassie Keltjin is thrilled to have escaped her father’s potato farm for university life. She loves everything about college, the professor who wears a jeans and a tie to class, the student’s chattering about Bach, Beck, and bacterial warfare in the hallways, even her largely absent roommate, Murph. For Tassie, this new world is a “brilliant city life of books and films and witty friends.”
But in order to continue to enjoy the college experience, Tassie needs a job. And her nanny job proves to be more educational than anything she learns on campus.
Tassie is clever, self deprecating, and woefully naïve. Her favorite response whenever she is at a loss is, “sounds good,” which even she knows is a lie. She is both more and less astute than she gives herself credit for. Her relationship with her boyfriend is an instance of cluelessness on a monumental scale. But after professing to have no childcare skills, she is a creative and caring nanny.
As the year progresses, her employers become more mysterious, their daughter more dear , and her boyfriend more reluctant. Things seem different back on the family farm too. When tragedy strikes both home fronts, Tassie is devastated. Upon her return to the university , she takes a job at Starbucks (our modern day sanctuary) and carries on, certainly more astute than a year earlier. “Sounds good,” however, is no longer a part of Tassie’s vocabulary.
I loved Lorrie Moore’s book—smart, lyrical, funny.