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Alternate Side
Cover of Alternate Side
Alternate Side
A Novel
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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
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
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Excerpts-
  • From the book “Just look at that,” Charlie Nolan said, his arm extended like that of a maître d’ indicating a particularly good table.

    “Oh, my God, stop,” said Nora Nolan, looking through the narrow opening of the parking lot, at the end of which she could just glimpse the front bumper of their car.

    “It’s beautiful, Bun,” Charlie said. “Come on, you have to admit, it’s beautiful. Look. At. That.” That’s what Charlie did when he wanted to make sure you got his point, turned words into sentences, full stop.

    Some. Sweet. Deal.

    Big. Brass. Balls.

    The first night they’d met, almost twenty-five years ago, in that crowded bar in the Village that was a vegan restaurant now: You. Are. Great.

    Really. Really. Great.

    Nora could not recall exactly when she’d first begun to think, if not to say: Just. So. Annoying.

    In the line of narrow townhouses that made up their side of the block, standing shoulder to shoulder like slender soldiers of flawless posture and unvarying appearance, there was one conspicuous break, a man down, a house-width opening to a stretch of macadam turned into an outdoor parking lot. It held only six cars, and since nearly everyone on the block wanted a space, it had become a hot commodity, a peculiar status symbol.

    A book about the city’s history, in the archives of a museum at which she had once interviewed for a job, had told Nora that a house in that space had been gutted in a fire, and the family that owned it had never bothered to rebuild. It had happened in the early 1930s, when the country, the city, and the west side of Manhattan had no money, which of course had happened again in the 1970s, and would doubtless happen again sometime in the future, because that was how the world worked.

    At the moment, however, it seemed scarcely possible. A house on the next block had just sold for $10 million in a bidding war. The couple who sold it had bought it for $600,000 when their children were young. Nora knew this because she and her neighbors talked about real estate incessantly. Their children, their dogs, and housing prices: the holy trinity of conversation for New Yorkers of a certain sort. For the men, there were also golf courses and wine lists to be discussed; for the women, dermatologists. Remembering the playground conversations when her children were small, Nora realized that the name of the very best pediatrician had given way to the name of the very best plastic surgeon.

    A single block in the middle of what seemed like the most populous island on earth—although it was not, a professor of geography had once told Nora; it was not even in the top ten—and it was like a small town. The people who owned houses on the block had watched one another’s children grow up, seen one another’s dogs go from puppy to infirmity to the crematorium at Hartsdale Pet Cemetery. They knew who redecorated when, and who couldn’t afford to. They all used the same handyman.

    “You live on that dead-end block?” someone had asked Nora at an art opening several years before. “One of my friends rented a place there for a year. He said it was like a cult.”

    None of those who owned on the block cared about the renters. They came and they went, with their sofa beds and midcentury-modern knockoffs, their Ikea boxes at the curb. They were young, unmoored. They didn’t hang Christmas wreaths or plant window boxes.

    The owners all did, and they stuck.

    From time to time a real estate agent would troll the block, pushing his card through mail slots and...
About the Author-
  • Anna Quindlen is a novelist and journalist whose work has appeared on fiction, nonfiction, and self-help bestseller lists. She is the author of nine novels: Object Lessons, One True Thing, Black and Blue, Blessings, Rise and Shine, Every Last One, Still Life with Bread Crumbs, Miller’s Valley, and Alternate Side. Her memoir Lots of Candles, Plenty of Cake, published in 2012, was a #1 New York Times bestseller. Her book A Short Guide to a Happy Life has sold more than a million copies. While a columnist at The New York Times she won the Pulitzer Prize and published two collections, Living Out Loud and Thinking Out Loud. Her Newsweek columns were collected in Loud and Clear.
Reviews-
  • Publisher's Weekly

    February 5, 2018
    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.

  • Kirkus

    February 15, 2018
    A Manhattan comedy of manners with a melancholy undertow.The vagaries of parking in New York City figure prominently in Quindlen's ninth novel, which begins with a moment of parking karma: Charlie Nolan has just scored a permanent spot in the small outdoor lot on his Upper West Side block. Charlie, an investment banker, and his wife, Nora, who runs a jewelry museum, live in a town house surrounded by other town houses owned by affluent types much like themselves; the only blight on the block is a single-room-occupancy building. The Nolans have been married for almost 25 years--not unhappily, not quite serenely--and are parents of college-age twins. Nothing much happens in the first 100 pages or so, but the author's amusing digressions--on dogs, rats, parking tickets, housing prices, and other city obsessions--keep things moving. Then a violent act shatters the calm on the Nolans' block: Hot-tempered Jack Fisk, partner in a white-shoe law firm, takes a golf club to mild-mannered Ricky Ramos, the neighborhood handyman, who's had the temerity to block the entrance to the parking lot with his van. And simmering issues of race and class boil over. (Earlier, when Nora visits Ricky at his home in the Bronx--getting lost, of course, on the way--there's a whiff of Bonfire of the Vanities.) The golf-club incident also has consequences for the Nolan family. The title of the book, it turns out, doesn't just refer to parking. Quindlen's sendup of entitled Manhattanites is fun but familiar. And though the author has been justly praised for her richly imagined female characters, Nora can seem more a type than a full-bodied woman.There's insight here--about the precariousness of even the most stable-seeming marriages--and some charm, but the novel is not on a par with Quindlen's best.

    COPYRIGHT(2018) Kirkus Reviews, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

  • Booklist

    Starred review from February 1, 2018
    By New York City standards, or anyplace else for that matter, Nora and Charlie Nolan lead a charmed existence. Their vintage townhome has appreciated in value; their twin son and daughter are doing well in college; and they each are employed in fiscally, if not emotionally, satisfying jobs. Their dead-end street is populated by an eclectic but mostly homogeneous group of professionals and stay-at-homes, millennials and matrons, housekeepers and handymen. Some neighbors are barely tolerated as casual acquaintances, while others are friends and all turn out for Christmas parties and summer barbecues. Then one day, their idyllic setting is shattered when Jack Fisk, one of their more volatile neighbors, violently attacks Ricky, their beloved jack-of-all-trades caretaker. In retrospect, it would seem to Nora that with each impact of Jack's golf club on Ricky's body, another fissure splintered the Nolans' carefully constructed world. The quotidian lives of Manhattanites have long fascinated discerning writers, from Wharton to McInerney, and with her ninth novel, best-selling Quindlen (Miller's Valley, 2016) takes her place within this pantheon. Though she writes with a deceptive casualness about dashed dreams and squandered hopes, Quindlen's quietly precise evaluation of intertwined lives evinces a keen understanding of and appreciation for universal human frailties. Complex themes and clever motifs make this eminently suitable for book groups.HIGH-DEMAND BACKSTORY: Extensive, many-faceted publicity efforts will mobilize Quindlen's legions of readers.(Reprinted with permission of Booklist, copyright 2018, American Library Association.)

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Alternate Side
Alternate Side
A Novel
Anna Quindlen
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