Alternate Side

Alternate Side

by Anna Quindlen

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Overview

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

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780812996067
Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
Publication date: 03/20/2018
Pages: 304
Sales rank: 270,477
Product dimensions: 5.90(w) x 9.20(h) x 1.10(d)

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.

Hometown:

New York, New York

Date of Birth:

July 8, 1952

Place of Birth:

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Education:

B.A., Barnard College, 1974

Read an Excerpt

“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 scribbling notes about that odd empty parcel on the north side, to see who owned it and whether a new townhouse could be built there. For now it was a narrow, ill-kept parking lot, oddly shaped, like one of those geometry problems designed to foil students on the SATs: determine the area of this rhomboid. In the worst of the parking spaces, the one wedged into a cut-in behind the back of the neighboring house, Charlie Nolan’s Volvo wagon, in a color called Sherwood Green, now sat. It had been there only for five hours, by Nora’s reckoning, and already the windshield was pocked with the chalky white confetti of pigeon droppings.

That morning, just after sunrise, Charlie had flipped on the overhead light in their bedroom, his face lit up the way it was when he was part of a big deal, had underestimated his bonus, or paid less for a bottle of wine than he decided it was worth.

“I got a space!” he crowed.

Nora heaved herself up onto her elbows. “Have you lost your mind?” she said.

“Sorry sorry sorry,” Charlie said, turning the light off but not moving from the doorway. There was a marital rule of long standing: Nora was to be allowed to sleep as long as she liked on weekends unless there was an emergency. She thought of herself as a person who had few basic requirements, but sleep was one of them. The six months during which her children had wanted to be fed, or were at least awake, in the middle of the night were among the most difficult months of her life. If she had not given birth to twins she might have had only one child, the sleep deprivation was so terrible.

Charlie knew this. He got up and went to work earlier than Nora, and the top of his dresser, the bathroom, his closet were all equipped with small flashlights by which he would dress, and dress again after he had taken the dog to the dog run, come home, and showered. Usually by the time he was in a suit and tie and eating his All-Bran, Nora was at the kitchen table in her nightgown, although it was her preference that they talk as little as possible in the morning.

Yet here was her husband, waking her on a Saturday, with the light full in her eyes.

“I got a space,” he said again, but less maniacally, as though he was setting his emotional temperature closer to hers.

And now she could see their car in the space, already moved from the enclosed garage two blocks away to the dogleg in the lot. Charlie was humming to himself. When they had first moved to the block, Charlie asked around among the other parkers to see if he could inherit the space vacated by the people they were buying the house from. It was communicated in no uncertain terms, and in that osmotic way in which things became known on the block, that a space in the lot was a privilege, not a right, and Charlie somewhat truculently signed up for the indoor garage nearby, privately adding the failure to his list of Things That Were Not Going the Way They Should for Charlie Nolan, a list that in the last year Nora suspected had become a book, perhaps even an encyclopedia.

While Charlie often complained to Nora that the fee for the enclosed garage was only slightly less than the rent on their first apartment, there had never even been a question of parking on the street. Paying for parking relieved one of those petty aggravations that was like dripping water on the stone of self, until one day you discovered it had left a hole the size of a fist in your head. Nora knew that for Charlie, living in the city meant more drips, with harder water. He reminded her of it often enough. New York was not Charlie’s natural habitat.

Nora hoped that this morning’s triumph, small but seemingly monumental to her husband, would make up for that in some fashion. It had rankled for years, when Charlie passed the opening to the lot, and now he had finally scored a space. On the dining room table lay the typed notice, slipped through their mail slot, informing Charlie that the spot formerly allotted to the Dicksons was his if he wanted it; in the spot now was their Volvo. It was a car like their life, prosperous, understated, orderly—no food wrappers, no baby seats, no coins or crumbs on the floor. When the lease on the car was up it would barely need to be detailed before they got another just like it. Charlie always wondered aloud about other manufacturers, models, colors. Nora didn’t care. She was scarcely ever in the car.

A white plastic bag eddied around Nora’s bare ankles for a moment in a breathless summer breeze, touching her, tickling her, circling her painted pink toes. She kicked it aside and it moved down the block, rising and falling like a tiny ghost, disappearing between two parked cars. The street smelled like dank river low tide, melting tar, and, as always in warm weather, the vinegar tang of garbage. Nora had had to yank their dog away from a cardboard container of moo shu something, pulled from a hole in a bag by some other dog and upended near the dead end.

It was crazy, but there was a small, secret part of Nora that was comfortable with trash on the street. It reminded her of her youth, when she’d first arrived in a nastier, scarier, dirtier New York City and moved into a shabby apartment with her best friend, Jenny. A better New York, she sometimes thought to herself now, but never, ever said, one of the many things none of them ever admitted to themselves, at least aloud: that it was better when it was worse.

Homer teased the air at the entrance to the lot with his muzzle and then sat. Their dog knew their block, their house, even their car, and he tolerated riding in it, wedging himself into the foot well alongside Oliver’s enormous sneakers. Rachel complained that Homer was not as affectionate with her as he was with her brother, which Nora thought was probably true. But ten minutes of Homer on Rachel’s insteps and she would be whining that her feet had fallen asleep and there was no reason their dog couldn’t ride in the way back like other dogs. Nora worried that her daughter had difficulty discerning the difference between what she really wanted and what other people made seem desirable. Now that Rachel was out of her teens and in college, Nora hoped she was outgrowing this, although in New York it made her merely typical.

“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” Charlie had said when Nora mentioned it to him. Which had become a bit of a theme in their house on every subject.

“Listening to you people,” said Jenny, the only one in their women’s lunch group who had never been married, “marriage sounds sort of like the den. It’s a good place to chill out, but it’s not the most important room in the house. Which makes me wonder why you’re all so anxious for me to have one.”

“I think the den is the most important room in the house,” Suzanne, who was a decorator, replied.

“The kitchen is the most important room in the house,” Elena said.

“If you cook,” Suzanne replied.

“Who still cooks?” said Jean-Ann.

Jenny turned to Nora. “Did everyone miss the entire point of what I said?” she asked.

“Absolutely,” Nora said.

“Absolutely,” Nora had said when Charlie asked if she wanted to walk down the block to the lot once he’d moved the car in, knowing that staying at the breakfast table to finish her bagel and read the newspapers was not conducive to a day of amity. But she balked at going any farther into the lot than that. “Come take a look,” Charlie said now, as though the lot contained infinite vistas, gardens, and statuary instead of just three brick walls, several other cars, a center drain, and two of those squat, black plastic boxes that were everywhere in the parks and backyards of New York City, sheltering blocks of flavored rat poison from passing dogs.

“I’m not going back there,” Nora said. “Charity says that’s where all the rats live.”

“So are the subway tracks, and you take the subway.”

She didn’t take it much. Nora liked to walk, and when she did take the train she made certain not to look down at the tracks. She’d tried to analyze the depth of her rat phobia, but she’d given it up as pointless. Why were squirrels fine, anodyne, and rats insupportable, provoking a chemical reaction so profound that her breathing didn’t return to normal for minutes at a time? Everyone had something; when they were growing up her sister had wakened her at least a dozen times because there was a spider in her room. Charlie hated snakes.

“Everybody hates snakes,” Rachel had said, dismissive even as a small child.

“I don’t,” Nora had replied.

And why had she chosen what seemed to be the rat capital of the world in which to make a life? She remembered her friend Becky from college, who was terrified of water—no need for deep analysis; her younger brother had nearly drowned on the Vineyard when they were children, pulled from the surf and given CPR by a lifeguard. Still, Becky had gotten a job managing a spa with an enormous saltwater pool. She’d insisted she didn’t mind, but as soon as she could she’d moved on to a sprawling country inn. There was a river at the bottom of the hill on which the inn sat, but she was never required to go near it. Nora understood that, unlike Becky’s phobia, most of these aversions were chemical and intuitive, the way some people immediately fell in love with New York, and other people said that they could never live there. (“I don’t get it,” Nora had said once to her sister, Christine, on the phone. “If I went to Greenwich and said, ‘I don’t understand how anyone can stand to live here,’ people would think I was rude.”)

Charlie walked to the back of the parking lot and out again, as though he were surveying his property. It wasn’t a long walk. “No rats,” he said.

“Just because you can’t see them doesn’t mean they’re not there,” said Nora.

Halfway down the block one of the guys who worked for Ricky taking care of their houses was hosing down the sidewalk. Ricky’s guys tended to be small, dark, and stocky, former residents of some Central American country who were willing to do almost any kind of work to earn money. This one had just washed out all their garbage cans, but the effort was fruitless. The greasy sheen on both the pavement and in the cans would reassert itself, summer’s urban perspiration. It was one of the reasons people who could afford to do so fled New York, for Nantucket, the Hamptons, somewhere cleaner, greener. Somewhere more boring, Nora often thought to herself.

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Alternate Side 3.6 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 17 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Couldn’t love any character and I honestly didn’t care what happened next. Not her best book.
Anonymous 8 months ago
A+disappointment++in+that+the+author%27s+work++is+usually++worthwhile++reading+.++%0ASeveral++of++the++other++reviews++of+this++book++have+nothing++to++do++with++the++novel++.+Several+other+reviews+are+offensive++and+actually++obscene+%21+%21%21
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Boring, disjointed tale. I used to read Anna Quindlen years ago and thought this sounded like a good one...not so. Nothing compelling or fascinating---can't even get to know or like any characters. Pass this one up..
Anonymous 3 months ago
I have always enjoyed Anna Quinlan’s writing - it took me a while to get into this book.
RodRaglin 11 months ago
Alternate Side by Anna Quindlen is a story about New Yorkers, though not necessarily those native to the city, but those who have become successful and thrive on its energy and eccentricities. Nora Nolan and her husband, Charlie, are two of those people as are their neighbours, a privileged few who live on a street that is unique in that it is short and a dead end, allowing limited access and maximum exclusivity. What makes this book so entertaining is Quindlen’s excellent characterization and authentic dialogue. Indeed, this book has very little plot at all with the inciting incident not even arriving until nearly halfway through the book. The event that starts this cliquish neighbourhood unravelling is when one of the neighbours brutally assaults Ricky, the handyman for the entire enclave, with a golf club because he blocked the entrance to the exclusive neighbourhood parking lot. Though the reader might expect dramatic revelations there aren’t any, everything is resolved in a civilized manner, as befitting these very civilized people. The worst that Quindlen can evoke is the falling out between some neighbours re-enforcing in this reader that you’re often better off not getting to know people too well. The ending has some uninspired musing by the protagonist about the road untaken. I had the impression the author hoped an appropriate ending would present itself and it didn’t, or it did, and she didn’t have the courage to write it. I'm not sure if Alternate Side was an entertaining story about nothing or a story about everything, but nothing specific.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
First time reading this author. I have never been to New York City but have always wanted to live there. Enjoyed the description of Nora’s aspect of living in NYC.
miss_mesmerized More than 1 year ago
They have the life many people dream of: Nora and Charlie Nolan live in New York city in a quiet dead-end street, their twins Rachel and Oliver have become charming and successful students and both Nora and Charlie are good at their respective jobs. In their street, they have made friends with the neighbours during annual barbecues and the like and from the outside, there is not much you could wish for. However, underneath the surface, the idyllic street has its fights, like very neighbourhood, there is the controlling neighbour whom nobody ever openly contradicts, there are rumours and the nannies also exchange the secrets and share them with their employers. Nora and Charlie have always worked well as a couple, but after almost 25 years, there is a kind of exhaustion, they do not share the same ideas of life anymore and after a major incident in their street which makes them take different sides, they too, have to confront the question if they want to and can go on like this. Anna Quindlen has an eye for the detail. Even though her story is set in big New York City, the plot is centred around a small community that could be found almost everywhere. It is the clash between the look from the outside and the real picture that makes the novel most striking, the almost invisible fractures, the divergent views which become only detectable when something big happens. “Alternate Sides” is the perfect summer read, on the one hand, it is a light novel, not too complicated or philosophical, but taken from life and straight-forward in the development of the plot. On the other hand, you have a sympathetic protagonist whom you can easily identify with. You follow Nora and she is immediately likeable, even though she’s got quite an exclusive job, she is like to woman from next door, ignorant of classes and anxious to raise her kids to become good people. Neither does she immediately explode when she feels provoked by her husband, nor does she take in everything without disagreeing. Since everybody knows how well-off neighbourhoods work, you can smirk at how the inhabitants of this street react, much too predictable, but that’s just how humans work. At times, they are hilarious – Charlie’s joy when he gets a parking spot in the street! – at times, they remind you of the people from you real life that you despise. Even though there are many serious issues underneath the surface of the novel, it is a joyful and entertaining read.
bookgal1 More than 1 year ago
While this book is well-written, I had a hard time getting into this story. There were some humorous moments, including the narrative explaining what “Alternate Side” means in terms of parking in a big city, that made me chuckle. Also, I enjoy a book that can shed light on something with which I am unfamiliar, so I really enjoyed the insights into what living in NYC entails. However, I did not find any of the main characters to be very relatable or likeable, so I was not as invested in the outcome of the story as I have been in her previous titles. Many thanks to the publisher and NetGalley for my review copy. All opinions are my own.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I'm finding it hard to review this one as it is a pretty quiet, low-keyed story but it does contain some human-interest themes. I enjoyed this quiet look into a character's life and world as she navigates her family, relationships and living in NYC, especially in the more privileged part of the city. This is a character driven story and the writing easily picked me up and took me along for the ride. There are some characters that are not very likeable and others that make up for those so it does tend to balance out a bit. I read a book by the author many years ago and I wasn't sure how I would feel with this one but I wanted to read her again as she is a big name author. I'm glad I did as the writing worked really nicely. Although not a page-turner, it is an interesting look behind closed doors.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Upper West Side NYC meets with petty neighborhood jealousy. A supposedly well educated and classy group of people squabble over a parking space and what results is a horrific act of violence. This is the premise of Anna Quindlen’s new book. This tale is told beautifully , the author does not disappoint in her writing of this book. The story is so well written in prose that went down like a fine red wine. With that said the book was slow moving for me and while I did enjoy the book and the characters, especially Nora, it just took a while to get into. Nora was my favorite character, I would love to have her job, my dream job has always been to work in a museum and live in NYC. Would I love to be married to Charlie? No thanks ! The author examines and delves into the heart of this family and what it takes for Nora to keep it all together as a wife, mother and working woman. As Nora’s life unravels her character becomes stronger and this is what I took away from this story; as women we are separate beings as well as mothers and wives. While this book was about a tragic incident it was also a story about a woman who finds out whi she really is and what she really wants in life.
BuckeyeGirlReads More than 1 year ago
Anna Quindlen shares a story of marriage and what it takes to keep relationships from breaking apart in ALTERNATE SIDE. Nora and her husband Charlie seem to have a charmed life. They own a fabulous home on a dead-end block in New York City. They have twins that are doing well in college and they share the friendship of good neighbors on their quiet street. Then, a terrible accident shakes things up in the neighborhood. Relationships fracture and problems radiate into Nora’s everyday life. ALTERNATE SIDE offers a sensitive look at marriage, motherhood and holding on to individuality at a turning point in life. This is the first book that I have read from Anna Quindlen since “Black and Blue” and I was expecting more. The prose is beautiful and well written. I found it to be quite moving at times. But, this didn’t make up for what I found to be unlikeable characters and a weak story line. I did not like Nora or Charlie. The neighbors weren’t even that enjoyable. Likeable characters are not necessary for me to enjoy a book. I quite like flawed and unlikeable characters. What I don’t like are weak characters and I felt that Nora and Charlie were whiney, unsympathetic and at times even annoying. I also felt that the author hit me over the head with the fact that the neighborhood was on a dead-end street. Numerous times this is mentioned. Street signs, explanations to people that are lost or looking for the park, conversations between the neighbors themselves. I got it. It’s a dead-end street. A thinly drawn parallel to the dead-end relationships Nora finds herself in. And then there’s the “accident”. No spoilers here, but the majority of the characters refer to what happened as an “accident”. I didn’t see it that way. I found it to be a deliberate, violent act. While not unenjoyable to read, I felt like the book just kind of plodded along and didn’t really go anywhere. This was a 3/5 star read for me. The beauty and elegance of the prose is the only reason this book got three stars. It just wasn’t enough to overcome the dead-end feeling of the book as a whole.
Suze-Lavender More than 1 year ago
Nora and Charlie are living in New York city. In their block only the people who own the houses seem to count. The renters aren't being included in anything. Nora and her neighbors share the same handyman, someone Nora likes and always gives her family's hand-me-downs. This person fixes everything for them. Charlie and Nora have two children and when they leave home they just continue living the way they used to, but is that really true? The ultimate goal in their block is having a parking space and they've finally reached it. However, does having a parking space make such a big difference? Slowly Nora's once so perfect life starts to unravel. There are problems at the block. An awful incident is the start of the decline of Nora's neighborhood and because of differences of opinion inevitably also her marriage. Nora works at a jewelry museum. When she's being offered a better job, she isn't inclined to take it, but the offer is there and it's one more issue that worsens her relationship with Charlie. Nora and Charlie have nothing left to say to each other. Being divided about the terrible event makes the gap between them even wider. Nora is losing her superb existence, but is it so bad that when everything crumbles she's being forced to take a good look at what her life is really like? Alternate Side is an interesting thought-provoking story. Nora's life might seem ideal on paper, but it's pretty superficial and empty. Her neighbors aren't particularly kind, her husband isn't actually present, even when he's there, and nobody seems to care very much about each other. Her life evolves around having a certain status, but what does getting that much desired parking spot truly have to offer? I loved how Anna Quindlen portrays her characters, she gives her readers a fantastic peek in an unbalanced, hollow life filled with meaninglessness that's being given the appearance of importance, while in reality it is nothing. I loved that idea for a story. She writes about what matters by showing her readers what clearly doesn't, a fabulous contradiction that I greatly admire. Anna Quindlen's captivating writing has a nice easy flow. I was intrigued by her story from the beginning. There's so much that can be said, thought and assumed about the block and that makes it a fascinating setting to read about. Alternate Side is filled with arrogance, judgements and pretence, but it's also a story about hope, fulfillment and happiness. By writing about what isn't there Anna Quindlen constantly made me think about what should have been there and this kept me glued to the pages. Alternate Side definitely impressed me, it's a fantastic compelling book.
SheTreadsSoftly More than 1 year ago
Alternate Side by Anna Quindlen is a highly recommended sensitive novel of a marriage and a neighborhood in crisis. Nora Nolan and her husband Charlie have been married for twenty five years. They have raised twins Rachel and Oliver, who are now in college, in their tight-knit New York City neighborhood of town homes on a dead end street on the Upper West Side. Nora is the director of a jewelry museum; Charlie is an investment banker. While outwardly they appear to have a stable marriage, there is no passion and really just a tolerance of each other born of a long association. Nora loves living in NYC, while Charlie has become tired of it and wants to sell their home and move out of the city. The two have a truce of sorts, and each stands clearly on their own side of the issue. The novel opens with Charlie finally getting a coveted parking spot in the neighborhood outdoor lot. Achieving a spot in the lot is a major coup in this neighborhood of affluent home owners. Quindlen continues for the first third of the novel to establish the place and setting. The neighborhood has a village-like atmosphere, where the homeowners have set neighborhood celebrations. They are all able to overlook one another’s annoying behaviors, secrets, and setbacks until an act of violence tears the neighborhood apart and highlights class, economic, and racial tensions in the neighborhood and widens the gulf between Nora and Charlie. This is an excellent, finely crafted character-driven novel about a relationship and an incident that revealed the hidden resentments and differences between spouses and neighbors. The open arguments and disagreements, especially between Nora and Charlie, expose their true feelings and desires. Nora is a well-developed complex character who is wonderfully depicted, as she explores her feelings, past and present, while working through her feelings over the incident that tears the neighborhood apart. The title refers to the alternate side street parking rules present in NYC, as well as some other urban areas, and the alternate sides the neighbors, and Nora and Charlie, are on regarding the violent incident on the block. And the violent act is tied into the parking lot, and street parking in the city. Parking can bring out the worst in many areas. (Admittedly, even my own neighborhood can have it share of disgruntled homeowners over street parking.) Quindlen does introduce a lot of characters in Alternate Side, almost too many, so you do need to pay attention at the beginning to who is who and their relationship to Nora. I particularly liked one comment a friend made to Nora: "You stayed together for almost twenty-five years, and you had two great kids. Your marriage was a huge success. Don’t let anybody tell you different." Disclosure: My review copy was courtesy of Random House Publishing Group
Carolefort More than 1 year ago
Thank you to Random House and NetGalley for providing me with an e-galley of Alternate Side by Anna Quindlen in exchange for an honest review. I must admit that I am a fan of Ms. Quindlen's writing, be it fiction or non-fiction. This particular novel tells the story of Nora and Charlie Nolan, who live on a dead-end upper-crust block in NYC which provides them with close relationships with their neighbors, at times too close. It is apparent that living there can and does become somewhat claustrophobic. One violent incident sets off a chain of events that will affect almost everyone on the block, including Nora and Charlie. The book is well-written and a most enjoyable read. Highly recommended for fans of relationship fiction.
brf1948 More than 1 year ago
I am always 'up' for an Anna Quindlen novel. She is an excellent writer who can bring any story right into your heart and make you feel it in your soul. Alternate Side is an excellent example of this talent. The clannish all white residents of an isolated cul-de-sac in downtown Manhattan seem to be blessed with a good luck charm. They have the important jobs, the stylish cars, the smart, happy children in prestigious schools. And they have the daily grind of living handled by the brown help. They also have only six parking spaces off of the street, and life changes for Charlie and Nora when he finally gains access to one of those six spaces. No longer must he have to plan ahead and waste time shuffling the car to the alternate side ahead of the meter maid and the street sweeper. And yet those six parking spaces bring down the balance of the neighborhood, dividing the residents into warring camps after one of the 'haves' clubs handyman Ricky with his 3 iron for blocking the parking area with his van, making Jack Fisk late for his tee-off. life begins to crumble around the edges from that point onward. But what is the difference between unburdened and free, and bereft? Who gets to decide? I received a free electronic copy of this novel from Netgalley, Anna Quindlen, and Random House Publishing in exchange for an honest review. Thank you all for sharing your hard work with me.
TUDORQUEEN More than 1 year ago
Nora and Charlie Nolan have been married almost 25 years. Their kids are Rachel and Oliver, twins who are away at their respective colleges. The Nolans own one of the brownstones on a dead end block in New York City. Where one of the buildings should be, there is a gap. Apparently, years ago one of the buildings had burned to the ground, but was never rebuilt. Instead, this space has been used as a parking lot for several of the buildings' inhabitants. There's only 6 available parking spaces, and to score one of them is no mean feat. As the book begins, Charlie is elated that he has finally been offered this exclusive perk. Nora simply is a New Yorker down to her bones. She can't fathom not living in The City, and refuses to even consider it. Husband Charlie, however, is constantly trying to lure Nora into selling the brownstone and moving out of New York City. Even though their property would most likely sell for much more than they paid for it originally, Nora doesn't want to know. She loves everything about the city, warts and all...except for the rats. In fact, Nora walks a long way to work each morning, forgoing taxis or subway trains, enduring all kinds of weather. She also runs on a regular basis. Charlie works in finance but feels like he's been unjustly passed over for promotions. Nora works as the manager of a unique jewelry museum. They have a nanny/housekeeper named Charity who worked in their household since the twins were born. Everyone on the block "has money," although most of it is in their houses. The stress of the parking issue in NYC is a major factor in this story. Scoring the parking space in the adjacent lot was supposed to be a thing of joy, but a pivotal event takes place there that has a negative rippling effect on the block's inhabitants. I normally love books that take place in NYC, but this one just fell a bit flat for me. Perhaps I didn't feel a connection or liking to any particular character. The writing style was of good quality, so perhaps this story will reach others in a way that I couldn't appreciate. Thank you to Random House who provided an advance reader copy via NetGalley.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I%27m++in+a+book+club++for+over+50+years+%2C++A+couple+of+us+have+been+in+since+day++one++we%27ve++seen+members+come+and++go++a+couple++are+%22snow++birds+%22living+in+Florida++during+the+winter+months+.+One+of+us+has+died+.+A+couple++are+no+longer++well+enough++to+attend+our+monthly++meetings+.+Anna+Quinlan+is+one+of+our++favorite++authors++We%27ve++read+Black+and+Blue+%C3%A0nd+Miller%27s++Valley.+We%27ve++added+some+new+members+through++the++years++