A Gate at the Stairs: Chapter 4

For me, Chapter 4 was all about Tassie and men. She has multiple awkward encounters with Edward. She meets and falls in love with Reynaldo. Edward is downright creepy, from him staring at her while she cradles Mary Emma bare-breasted (ok, this is weird in my book: that Sarah would recommend it, and that Tassie would oblige) to his repeatedly leering at her (“His eyes were trying to do something with mine, but I wasn’t sure what. He seemed too old for our eyes to be doing anything”). Tassie’s alarm bells go off when Edward is near. She knows to keep her distance. The moth in the microwave incident confirms for her that something is really amiss with him: “The penchant for torture, in the guise of curiosity, was the same sick experimentation of certain doctors, bored boys, of lunatics, and it was in Edward, too.” The hairs on the back of my neck stood on end when I read this. Did yours? What are your thoughts on Edward?

However, she is completely oblivious to the warning signs she encounters with Reynaldo. Moore lets the readers in, almost immediately, on Reynaldo’s deceptions, beginning with his nationality. “I giorni della mera” is the day of the blackbird in Brazil, he proclaims, except for the fact that words he uses to name it are in Italian. Tassie figures this out (“ ‘Teach me some Portuguese’…I learned much later it was actually Spanish with some Italian thrown in”) but not until well after her heart is his. She can’t help herself. “ ‘I love you’ I would say, and he said nothing at all. But no shame rose in me to rescue me or silence me.” Why? Why does she ignore her instincts? I completely identified with Tassie at this point. Did you? I have to admit that I once dated a guy for close to two months before he admitted to being a convicted felon who spent 13 years in jail for dealing drugs in college. What?!? I ended it, but it wasn’t that easy because I wanted to like him.

What struck you about this chapter? Any more thoughts about gates and stairs? (Did you realize that the name of the book was mentioned in this chapter?) As I mentioned last week, Lorrie Moore has agreed to answer questions from our group. I hope you have a few. Next week we need to cover both Chapters 5 and 6 so we can have time to get our questions answered.

Have a great weekend.

—Gary

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