Book Review | “Alternate Side”


When I volunteered to do a book review, I dXXXidn’t know where to start.  Debbie Brewer at Jefferson Carnegie Library kindly pointed out the center carousel across from her desk that included lots of new books.  You can tell because they have a green label at the bottom of the spine.

Alternate Side by Anna Quindlen caught my attention.  It has a brightly colored cover which immediately catches your eye.  When I picked it up, the inside flap quickly drew me to read more: “The tensions in a tight-knit neighborhood – and a seemingly happy marriage – are exposed by an unexpected act of violence”.

While I generally gravitate toward mystery thrillers, this seemed like a good book to start for moving forward through a book review – which seemed like a daunting task.  As much as I enjoy reading, this book really stretched me out of my comfort zone.  Though fiction, this book feels like a real-life depiction on how a perfect life and marriage can bring catastrophe through unexpected events.

Charlie and Nora are happily married, both working, and living a charmed life in New York City.  Quindlen writes a very realistic story that could happen to any of us.  It all starts with Charlie wanting a coveted spot in their block’s small parking lot.  They only become available if a family moves off the tranquil small dead-end street.  Families have lived here together for years and think they know everything there is to know about each other.

The street on which they live is reflective of most small towns – pressure can build up over time and just erupt into violence – based on unknown circumstances brought to bear from all sides.  Looking outside in, no one knows or understands stress that is brought into family situations – so while life looks perfect, inside the family structure can be deteriorating.

The preface on the inside flap says “Anna Quindlen explores what it means to be a mother, a wife, and a woman at a moment of reckoning.”  Women will enjoy this book more than men, and we can see ourselves in her character Nora Nolan.

USA Today says: “Quindlen’s book reads like a metaphor for our divisive times. Americans seem to live on alternate sides, scrapping any sense of unity in desperate pursuit of a parking space in the Big Apple of life.  There are no answers here, only a knowing look at the damage done to lives and communities when we fail to find some shared values in the middle of the road.”

The book made me laugh, and it made me cry.  The story was very convincing and I enjoyed reading something different from most of the books that I read.  The story can get heavy so if you are looking for a fun, light read – this is probably not the book for you.


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