Lorrie Moore is passionately admired by writers, critics and readers on both sides of the Atlantic for her three books of short stories and two novels; and her relative silence during the past decade has only whetted literary appetites for her work. When ‘Childcare’, the dazzling first chapter of her long-awaited third novel, A Gate at the Stairs, appeared in the New Yorker in July, fans were blogging that the new book would be the Big One. The New Yorker excerpt was vintage Moore, with a wise-cracking, edgy young heroine named Tassie Keltjin, a twenty-year-old college student in the Midwest, taking a part-time job in the autumn of 2001 as a nanny for a mysterious and glamorous couple, Sarah Brink and Edward Thornwood, who are in the process of adopting a baby.
A Gate at the Stairs goes far beyond this promising start to explore the American political tragedies of the twenty-first century through the eyes of a woman at what Moore calls ‘the universal age of passion’. After some disappointments, the Thornwood-Brinks adopt a bi-racial baby girl and at