“The Kid with a Bike” and “A Gate at the Stairs”

Last week, I saw a new film, The Kid with a Bike, which I loved. Here’s what I wrote about it when I posted on my Facebook page:

A disturbing, powerful, and ultimately hopeful movie, about a boy abandoned by his dad (no mention of his mother; maybe there, but I didn’t catch it), living in a group home, who is eventually fostered by a single woman, a hairdresser, and preyed upon by a local tough. Addresses hard issues like attachment, loss, and parenting the hurt child. Watch the trailer and see it if you can. In French.

I recently finished Lorrie Moore’s book, A Gate at the Stairs (Alfred A. Knopf, 2009 and Vintage Contemporaries, 2010)The New York Times, Washington Post, and Chicago Tribune, among many other publications, named A Gate at the Stairs one of the ”Best Books of the Year.” Publishers Weekly gave it a starred review.

However, according to reviews posted on Amazon, readers’ reactions vary widely, with about the same number of people giving the book five stars as gave it one. One of my friends, a voracious reader, hated the book, or more specifically, hated the depiction of one of the main characters, Sarah Brink. (Sarah, like author Lorrie Moore, is an adoptive mother.) I must confess that at first I didn’t much like Sarah, either–her character seemed brittle, aloof, and self-centered–but by the end of the book, I understood her, and with understanding came deep admiration and empathy. A few weeks later, Sarah Brink still haunts me, which is why I’m recommending the book now. But be warned, A Gate at the Stairs is not a particularly fun or easy read.

My goal for 2012 is to read more books. If I find any other great ones that feature adoption themes, I’ll let you know.


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8 Responses to ““The Kid with a Bike” and “A Gate at the Stairs””

  1. Sveta says:

    Will try and get the book now. I will let you know what I think. Thank you for recommendation.

  2. Sounds like a thoughtfully written book- I like Lorrie Moore but didn’t know that she was an adoptive mother.
    It’s funny…my goal for 2012 is to read more books too, and I just finished your wonderful Mamalita. Loved it, and literally could not put it down… even walked my dog around the block with my nose in your book- thanks so much for writing it- it is wonderful!

  3. Jessica says:

    Sveta, Looking forward to hearing your reaction. I won’t say another word…

    Maggie: A little-publicized fact about Lorrie Moore that I read once and remember. Found a Guardian article that mentions her son, apparently a gifted soccer player.

    Please let me know if you find any books you recommend. Amazing how hard it can be to find time, or allow ourselves time, to indulge in something we love, that is also positive. I hope you get more reading done this year.

    Thank you for reading Mamalita and telling me you loved it! I can imagine the scene of you walking your dog with your nose in my book. Thanks for painting that picture for me.

    Here’s a link to the Guardian article that mentions Moore’s son:


  4. Heather says:

    The book has been sitting on my bedside table since it was published. I’ve been waiting for the ‘right time’ to dig in. As for the movie, I loved it, too! Very powerful performances.

  5. Jessica says:

    Funny, Heather, because I had the same situation–the book languished for months on my shelf, unread, until I finally read it in one sitting on a very long flight from India. The hours flew. Glad to hear you loved the movie, too. ~

  6. Evelyn says:

    I, too, didn’t know Moore was an adoptive mom. I have liked her other books but I felt really angry about the depiction of the adoption process in this book. I had read the except that appeared (maybe as a short story) in the New Yorker and really liked it. The story relies on scenarios that I didn’t find believable. And perpetuates what I think of as myths about adoption. In particular, there is a leave-taking scene with a foster family that seemed so unrealistic. Or am I naïvely believing in a faulty system?

  7. Jessica says:

    Evelyn: While reading Moore’s book, I sometimes bristled at her depiction of the adoption process, and especially of adoptive and foster parents. In addition to the scene you mention, the meeting of adoptive parents organized by Sarah toward the end of the book also made me cringe. It was almost as though Moore paraded out every stereotype and assigned them offensive dialogue. The tone of the book overall struck me as a little cynical. But when I reached the end, with the revelation of Sarah’s past, and her husband’s actions, all of it made sense–the cynical tone, Sarah’s hard edges.
    What redeemed the story for me was the second-to-last scene, which begins with Edward calling Tassie, which leads to Tassie’s later reflection on the girl Mary-Emma may have become, and the way the different women still remember her. That description was so profound, so beautiful and true. For me, those paragraphs summarized the essence of adoption.
    As far as Moore being an adoptive parent herself: in my experience, some of the harshest criticism of adoption comes from adoptive parents, birth mothers, foster parents, adoptees. No judgement here, just an observation.
    A roundabout way of saying I understand why the book made you angry. Thanks for your comment.

  8. ideas masivas…

    [...]“The Kid with a Bike” and “A Gate at the Stairs” « Mamalita – an adoption blog by Jessica O'Dwyer on Guatemalan adoption[...]…

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