A Gate at the Stairs Summary & Study Guide

This Study Guide consists of approximately 37 pages of chapter summaries, quotes, character analysis, themes, and more - everything you need to sharpen your knowledge of A Gate at the Stairs.
This section contains 524 words
(approx. 2 pages at 400 words per page)
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A Gate at the Stairs Summary & Study Guide Description

A Gate at the Stairs Summary & Study Guide includes comprehensive information and analysis to help you understand the book. This study guide contains the following sections:

This detailed literature summary also contains Quotes and a Free Quiz on A Gate at the Stairs by Lorrie Moore.

• This study guide was created using the following version of this book: First Vintage Contemporaries Edition, September 2010. ISBN: 978-0-375-70846-6

A Gate at the Stairs is a coming of age story about Tassie Keltjin, a 20-year-old college student. The story takes place a few months after the September 11th attacks. Interested in finding a part-time job, Tassie applies for a nanny position and is interviewed by Sarah Brink, a woman who, along with her husband Edward, is trying to adopt a child. Sarah hires Tassie and asks her to accompany her to meet potential birth mothers. The first meeting is unsuccessful, but the second leads to starting the adoption proceedings of a child named Mary, whose mother is white and father is African American.

Tassie bonds with the child, now called Mary-Emma, and they spend a lot of time together going to places around the town. At school, Tassie registers for a class called Intro to Sufism. In the class, Tassie meets Reynaldo, a young man claiming to be from Brazil. They strike up a friendship and then their relationship evolves into romance. Tassie’s relationship with Reynaldo is her first significant relationship and she introduces Mary-Emma to him.

When Tassie is out with Mary-Emma, someone yells a racial epithet at Mary-Emma. Tassie tells Sarah and this prompts her to start a support group for families of color in the community. Tassie watches the children during the meetings. After one of the meetings, Tassie goes to Reynaldo’s apartment and finds his apartment empty of furnishing, except for his prayer mat and poster with a black background and white letters. He tells her that he is not part of a terrorist cell and that she should not believe what she may hear on the news.

Sarah asks Tassie about Reynaldo when she hears he disappeared. Sarah also decides to confide in Tassie about an incident in her and Edward’s past. They once had a son Gabriel who died. After the adoption agency learns about Gabriel’s death, they halt the adoption process and take Mary-Emma back into foster care.

After the spring semester ends, Tassie returns home in time for her brother Gunny’s high school graduation. Gunny leaves for basic training the day after graduation and is later deployed to the Middle East. During his tour, Gunny is killed in an explosion. Devastated by her brother’s death, Tassie climbs into the coffin with her brother on the day of the funeral. She helps her father with the family farm and ends up taking a medical leave of absence from school to process her grief.

Once Tassie returns to school, she gets a new apartment and roommate and begins to look for a new part-time job. After listing Sarah and Edward as references on a job application, she gets a phone call from Edward out of the blue. He tells her that he recommended her highly and confesses that he and Sarah have split up. Over the course of their conversation, Edward ends up asking Tassie to go to dinner with him. Tassie tells him no.

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This section contains 524 words
(approx. 2 pages at 400 words per page)
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