NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER • “Captures the angst and anxiety of modern life with . . . astute observations about interactions between the haves and have-nots, and the realities of life among the long-married.”—USA Today
A provocative novel that explores what it means to be a mother, a wife, and a woman at a moment of reckoning, from the #1 New York Times bestselling author of Miller’s Valley and Still Life with Bread Crumbs.
Some days Nora Nolan thinks that she and her husband, Charlie, lead a charmed life—except when there’s a crisis at work, a leak in the roof at home, or a problem with their twins at college. And why not? New York City was once Nora’s dream destination, and her clannish dead-end block has become a safe harbor, a tranquil village amid the urban craziness. The owners watch one another’s children grow up. They use the same handyman. They trade gossip and gripes, and they maneuver for the ultimate status symbol: a spot in the block’s small parking lot.
Then one morning, Nora returns from her run to discover that a terrible incident has shaken the neighborhood, and the enviable dead-end block turns into a potent symbol of a divided city. The fault lines begin to open: on the block, at Nora’s job, and especially in her marriage.
Praise for Alternate Side
“[Anna] Quindlen’s quietly precise evaluation of intertwined lives evinces a keen understanding of and appreciation for universal human frailties.”—Booklist (starred review)
“Exquisitely rendered . . . [Quindlen] is one of our most astute chroniclers of modern life. . . . [Alternate Side] has an almost documentary feel, a verisimilitude that’s awfully hard to achieve.”—The New York Times Book Review
“An exceptional depiction of complex characters—particularly their weaknesses and uncertainties—and the intricacies of close relationships . . . Quindlen’s provocative novel is a New York City drama of fractured marriages and uncomfortable class distinctions.”—Publishers Weekly
APPLE BOOKS REVIEW
Anna Quindlen’s close-up snapshot of Manhattan's elite isn't very pretty. Nora Nolan once derived a thrill from the city's 24/7 bustle, but now she’s mostly consumed by ladies' lunches and parking-space envy. When a violent incident shatters her close-knit block, cracks become exposed elsewhere: in her life, her marriage, and her perception of New York itself. Quindlen's sharp, character-driven story offers an honest but sympathetic look at the lies people tell themselves in order to project "success."
Bestseller Quindlen's provocative novel (after Miller's Valley) is a New York City drama of fractured marriages and uncomfortable class distinctions. Nora and Charlie Nolan, married 25 years, live in a posh neighborhood in Manhattan. She is a museum director, he's an investment banker, and both are lodged in a passionless marriage of silent tolerance. Simmering class, economic, and racial tensions boil over when an arrogant, rich white lawyer neighbor hits a local Latino handyman with a golf club for blocking a parking lot entrance. This forces Nora, Charlie, and their neighbors to decide how seriously to take the crime. Suddenly, the neighborhood's veneer of acceptance and inclusion is peeled away, revealing resentment and bitterness among neighbors and spouses. Nora and Charlie argue openly, revealing just how little they really care about each other and prompting Nora to conclude there are only three kinds of marriages: "happy, miserable, and acceptably unhappy." Quindlen's novel is an exceptional depiction of complex characters particularly their weaknesses and uncertainties and the intricacies of close relationships.
Excellent Characters, Weak Plot Point - And I Liked It
The writer poses the question “Are sometimes things better when they are worse” and yes, that is true - and this book itself proves it. The “better” are the characters; they are wonderful. Drawn before, during and after a catalystic event, they resonate - I felt I could “see” them and relate to them. (I might even argue I am them in some ways.) The “worse” is the actual event, which I thought came a little late in the story and in fact had less impact than I would have expected, on the characters and on me as a reader. I am not even sure it was necessary to the story. But I am glad she had the idea for the event, because if not, we would likely never meet the characters, and I would be less for that. First book I read in a day and a night in a long time.
I thought it was much longer than it needed to be. She weaves a good story and is an excellent story teller but this story didn’t really resonate as much as her others.
I read this because I’ve loved other books she has written. This was the worst book I’ve read in as long as I can remember. It was just boring and droned on and on and nothing happened.