Alternate Side

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date: 21 May 2018

Member Reviews

Anna Quindlen's newest book, ALTERNATE SIDE is a masterpiece of New York life, social mores, and personalities.
Charlie and Nora Nolan are living the successful middle-aged life on one of the city's few dead-end streets in a family neighborhood on the Upper West Side. Their twins, Rachel and Oliver, are at good colleges, and the married couple are drifting into middle age financially stable, but personally unfulfilled. When a neighborhood tragedy occurs it makes them both take a good look at themselves - individually and together as a couple -- and revaluate where and what they want to do with the rest of their lives. 
Quindlen has painted a picture of middle-class privilege and angst so vividly in this book. The Nolan's neighbors are a mishmash of likable and totally unlikable people - just like you'd find in any neighborhood in America.. As social mores change and opportunities come and go, Nora and Charlie try to get through each day, secure in the knowledge each is right in whatever decision they make, even if it is wrong for them as a couple.
When I first started reading this book I thought the title was indicative of that New York idiosyncrasy Alternate side of the street parking. As a native New Yorker, this was a struggle any Manhattan car owner who is forced to park on the street and not in a lot, experiences. But the further I read, I realized the title was really how Nora and Charlie's marriage had devolved into separate lives with alternate thinking, ideas, and hopes for the future.
As I said, this book is a masterful portrayal of New Yorkers.
I highly recommend it. 5 stars.
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Nora Nolan, a museum director, invites us on to her block on the west side of Manhattan (where houses in the neighborhood now sell for ten million dollars) and into her townhouse where she lives with her husband, Charlie an investment banker and, occasionally, with her twin college=age children. The block seems like a village where all the residents know each other, their families and pets. A renter once even compared it to a cult. Norah's life is idyllic until gradually, it isn't. Jack, a neighbor with anger management issues, allegedly attacks Rickie, the indispensable handyman, with a golf club as a result of a parking dispute, Charlie wants to sell the house, someone keeps leaving bags of dog poop on the front steps, and more indignities which Nora compares to the plagues inflicted upon Egypt.
Anna Quindlen writes with characteristic insight and humor about privilege, marriage, family, and urban life.
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I thoroughly enjoyed this book.  The main character, Nora is married and has grown twins who are in college.  She lives in NYC with her husband in a bog house on a nice block where all the neighbors know each other really well.  She narrates the entire book, although it is in third person, it seems like first because it is all her opinions, descriptions, thoughts, feelings and her entire life with almost every detail possible that makes the plot and drives it as well.  Nora and Charlie live and work in a city they have loved.  Nora guides us through all different stages & places in NYC, her life, her family as they grow, and the changes she is about to face.  Once I started reading I couldn't put it down because she was such an interesting person, also someone with whom I can identify with personally.  Easy to read with fabulous writing from Anna Quindlen.  Gave me a new perspective on New York City and my own 25 year marriage too!  Every decision that I've made has affected my life and my family's life over the years and that made me stop and think.  Nora is a strong, independent modern woman, a character that I respect and admire.  A fabulous book that I highly recommend!  Thank you NetGalley for the privilege to read and review an ARC!!
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Alternate Side: A Novel by [Quindlen, Anna]

I find Anna Quindlen to be hit or miss; this one was a miss.

Review copy provided by publisher.
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I know this book won't be available until sometime in 2018, but I already know it will be one of my favorite books of the year.  I live in Manhattan and the very term, ALTERNATE SIDE, fills me with angst and despair.  Quindlen uses the parking situation as a metaphor for changing not only parking spaces, but actual lives.

Nora Nolan and her husband Charlie live in a unique cul de sac on New York's Upper Westside and the issues over a small vacant lot used for parking become the catalyst of their own move into a different life.  Charlie is a dissatisfied man, looking to change himself by moving to a different climate and leaving the NYC rat race where he is not especially successful, Nora on the other hand, breathes in and gains strength from the air of Manhattan.
It is an incident which occurs in that lot which changes their lives.  A neighbor has beaten the local Latino handy man with his golf club because he has blocked his exit from the lot.  That golf club, and all it conveys about the man who wields it, is the turning point in the lives of all the people involved in the incident.   It is the hapless Charlie who becomes a witness for the perpetrator while Nora sees the cruelty and dismissiveness of the brutal act of rage.

It brings to light all the differences that have put them on ALTERNATE SIDES of this incident and ultimately leads to the dissolution of their marriage.  It is not a sad ending, but the right one for 2 people who have drifted so far apart.  It even occurs at a perfect time for all of us with children, graduation and the start of their twins' own lives.  So, they both move on, full of hope to new jobs and without the burden of moving their car to Alternate Sides!

This is a wonderful book, which I didn't put down.  I loved Nora, her quirks and her idealism.  Quindlen manages to include the archetypes of the affluent New Yorkers who live in these gentrified areas of NYC.  I suspect they are my neighbors and I can picture them all.  What a fabulous job Quindlen has done, this book should not be missed.  I will remind all of you when it is available.
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Anna Quindlen has done it again!! 

Alternate Side is a thought provoking novel that is relatable to everyone.  I dove into this book the moment it hit my kindle and ended up devouring it in one day.  I found the characters were realistic and I connected with them immediately which is the reason I couldn’t put my kindle down until I finished.  The storyline was paced perfectly and never lagged —love that!  Anna Quindlen’s novel’s always have me reflecting upon my own life after I’m finished.  After Alternate Side, I thought about the domino effect some decision have had and also the difference between perception and reality— I LOVE a book that can make you look introspectively!  The Alternate Side is a 5 star read that is on my 2018 favorites list!! Must read!!
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Totally relatable. I enjoyed this book so  much. Kind of homey, in a New York way. Characters seemed real and honest. Lovely!
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Anna Quindlen's newest novel is a gift for women who are contemplating their lives when they have reached the forty-something years, especially those who grew up or moved to New York as young adults.  Nora Nolan lives in a townhouse (a dead end street serves as an excellent metaphor) on the Upper West Side with her husband, Charlie, and their twins, Ollie and Rachel.  The novel begins just as the twins are headed off to college and life begins changing for Nora.

The family is quite privileged.  They own an entire townhouse, employed a nanny when the twins were young, and now that nanny, Charity, works as a housekeeper on a daily basis.  Ollie attends MIT and Rachel go to Williams, elite schools where admissions are highly selective, and the cost is prohibitive for most people.  Nora works as a manager for a museum of beautiful jewelry, a very satiric comment on how the wealthy see their possessions.  Nora's boss, Bebe, created the gallery from her jewelry collection, acquired during marriages to a few wealthy men.

Charlie works as an investment banker, and he is the source of conflict for Nora.  Charlie wants to sell their house after the kids leave for college.  He'd like to move south and live on a golf course.  Charlie is paranoid about not moving up the ladder at his organization; he begins to complain about New York, his job, younger men who seem to be climbing the ladder faster. In other words, nothing is ever good enough, a central theme of the book.  

Charlie's issues create the ultimate "rich people's problems story."  Nora begins to evolve, making the book exciting and just a bit suspenseful.  She has it all, but something is missing as well.  The struggle over leaving NYC is familiar, and that extends to her relationship with many folks in her life, including her husband.  ALTERNATE SIDE is an excellent novel for grown-up people who know what makes up a well-lived life.  It is about making difficult choices when sticking to what you have is just the most natural path to follow. 

Thank you, NetGalley, Anna Quindlen, and Random House for the opportunity to read this e-ARC.

Expected publication: March 20, 2018
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Two people can share one umbrella, but can they survive the storm together?

Manhattan is the mecca for those who weave their way onto the wide and burgeoning lap of New York City. Funny how that works out. Most who possess the placcard of New Yorker are from someplace else.

Charlie and Nora Nolan have set stakes on a deadend street in this part of New York City. Most of the stately homes are from an era of long ago. Their twins, Oliver and Rachel, no longer reside with them and are attending college. But Homer? Now Homer, a furry Australian sheepdog of thirteen years, is their ticket to the outside world of neighbor upon neighbor. You can't help but engage in small talk with those who live in such close proximity while walking the little barkers several times a day.

Anna Quindlen creates a ring-side seat, front and center, into the lives of Charlie, Nora, and those recognizable neighbors, both kindly and obnoxious. Life in the Big City is filled with trials and tribulations and surviving the onslaught of a constantly changing score card. Some days you're up at bat and hit it out of the park and other days you're benched for eternity.

And it all begins with a parking space down the street. New Yorkers know that such a cue is like embracing the Holy Grail with both arms. Rare, dear readers, rare. Charlie doesn't realize that renting this spot on cracked concrete will lead to tragic circumstances.

Quindlen, as only Quindlen can, sketches a "Lord of the Flies" situation here with neighbor against neighbor and emotions taking reign. Does the loudest voice always signal immediacy of command? And whose opinion carries the most weight? And what do your lying eyes tell you?

Ah, dear readers, this is a little treasure of a read. Quindlen rounds out her storyline with humorous banter (laugh out loud), indepth backstories, and the painful observations of city life with "the haves" and "the have nots" who are aware and unaware of their social plights. Nora Nolan's daily interactions with a homeless man in front of the museum where she works is alone worth the price of admission. The mundane actions, day after day, are not so mundane after all.

I received a copy of Alternate Side through NetGalley for an honest review. My thanks to Random House and to the very talented Anna Quindlen for the opportunity.
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