Alternate Side

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date: 21 May 2018

Member Reviews

In Alternate Side by Anna Quindlan Nora is married to Charlie, they have two children, now in college.  They live in New York City in a very tight knit white neighborhood. The kind that celebrates holidays together, that stop and talk to one another in the streets, that know each other’s children. When the man who does home maintenance in the neighborhood is attacked by one of the home owners the tight knit neighborhood begins to fall apart as well as marriages as the neighbors learn not everyone views race the same.  

I enjoyed Alternate Side and not only the themes of race and immigrants but also the theme of how well we really know those we see everyday. I loved how the setting of New York City was almost a character or part of the plot. I feel the story would have a much different feel to it if it was set in another city. 

The narration goes back and forth between past and present and sometimes I had a difficult time recognizing if I was reading a memory or if we were in the present. 

In many ways this is a sad story but it was one I really enjoyed reading.
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I always love to get my hands on the newest Anna Quindlen Book.  While I enjoyed the book, I found it just mediocre.  The characters weren't all that likable and I thought the book dragged.  Not one of my favorites.
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I am middle of the road on this Anna Quindlen novel. It seemed a little slow to get started, I'd actually say it was a gentle read. The main character is layered enough to be interesting but never became compelling for me. Actually I found the secondary characters a bit more complex and interesting.  The story of a marriage became stronger in the second half. Alternate Side could become a book discussion selection as it seems to engender ratings all over the spectrum.
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Anna Quindlan is one of my favorites. This novel was more sobering than some, including as it did, the narrow thinking of (supposedly) liberal wealthy New Yorkers. I liked the fact that Nora came to some peace regarding her new life--but it was bittersweet.
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I love this author but this is not a favorite.  I found none of the characters likeable or interesting.
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4* review
This new novel by an author I always enjoy, both her fiction and non-fiction, started out slowly and I was not at first impressed by it.  I kept reading because, after all she is a favorite author of mine.  But also, I grew up in lower Manhattan and even though I did not drive until I moved out of ‘the city’, I do remember the Alternate Side of the Street Parking.   However, the title of “Alternate Side” can refer to a few things in this story, which is something I like.   
I just didn’t seem to care about some of the characters but the writing and storyline kept me going and after a while I was totally caught up in the goings-on and wanted to see how it all turned out.  Again, good book by this author.
Thank you to Net Galley, the publisher and author for this advance copy and I apologize for not getting around to writing my honest opinion earlier.
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It was a pretty good read with definitely a lot going on in it. I do appreciate her style of writing and the story itself was relatable.
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Have you ever read one of those books where you don't know what the point is or where it's going -- but then you get to the end and you realize you're totally blown away? That's how I felt about Anna Quindlen's new novel, Alternate Side. It felt so un-Quindlen-like to me. Where her earlier novels have had very strong plots, where you read on largely to find out what happens next, this book is much more subtle and character-driven. The story ostensibly revolves around a disturbing incident that affects the people who live or work on a small, exclusive New York City block -- but it's really about family and marriage and community: what keeps us together and what drives us apart and how very fragile our connections really are. If this is the Quindlen's approach to fiction going forward, I can't wait for her next one!
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Anna Quindlen has been a favorite author of mine for years, so I was excited to read her latest book.  I do love character driven novels like this where they tell you all sides of the story, but there were sooooo many characters and felt it went way into detail and lost me.  Was there a plot, maybe several plots I just got confused?  I couldn't find any characters I really gravitated towards either, none were enjoyable to read about.  It was actually difficult to finish, but I always finish since I always want to know the whole story.
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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.
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This was my first time reading Anna Quindlen and I am SOLD. Although I'm not a New Yorker, I have a complicated love/hate relationship with the city and could so easily relate to many of the trials of New York life & more simply, a woman's life at a crossroads. I loved how, despite the clear focus of First World Problems here, Quindlen touches upon women's issues, class/poverty, infidelity, and mental illness. Each affect us everyday and I was glad to see the pontificating on them all in this novel.

Nora Nolan's fraternal twins Rachel & Oliver are entering their final year of college, she is successfully running a relatively new jewelry museum, her husband, Charlie, is excited to have finally gotten an assigned space in the lot on their block for a car they (certainly she) rarely use. All of the small-town life drama translated to a single dead-end block in Manhattan, Nora loves to hate a select few of her neighbors (GEORGE!!!) for their busybody behaviors or their classist attitudes. Their little slice of the city makes big news when one such snob (Jack) is so incensed when their handyman's (Enrique's) van is blocking the lot, that he proceeds to take a golf club to the side of the vehicle, and then to the other man's leg when he tries to intervene. It would have been big news anywhere but it breaks the neighbors into subtly warring factions and Nora & Charlie find themselves on opposite sides. 

Beautiful writing focuses on Nora's POV as she wonders about whether or not she should prioritize her marriage by leaving the city for good (Charlie often responds to her city-specific complaints by reminding her that they can sell the house, make a nice profit, and go live anywhere else), if she should consider the job offer coming from Charlie's boss, and if just like alternate side parking messes up a couple mornings per week, if there's an alternate life/lives which she messed up by making any number of missteps in her current life.
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Thanks to the publisher and Netgalley for an eARC of this book.
This was my first Anna Quindlen read and won't be my last. I enjoyed her development of characters and their relationships. Having grown up in a small town, I found the pocket neighborhood in NYC interesting as it was so similar to what I grew up with. But most of all, I found her grasp of marriage relationships to be most insightful. #AlternateSide #NetGalley
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I loved Anna Quindlen's writings in The New York Times and feel privileged to have been able to tell her so in person.  As an ex-pat in the 1990's, I looked forward to her pieces and their connection to everyday life in America.  Unfortunately, I cannot seem to find the same emotional connection with her longer works of fiction like ALTERNATE SIDE which was published this Spring. Setting her latest novel in New York City, Quindlen explores the often shaky state of marriage as well as societal distinctions based on class and race. The first third or so of this book is filled with background and amusing vignettes about Charlie, an investment banker, and Nora, a jewelry museum director, plus various acquaintances and neighbors. They have two college age children who were raised in the townhouse where Charlie and Nora still live, having recently been lucky enough to secure a parking space in the outside lot. Remember, it's New York and later there is a vicious attack due to limited parking which prompts change in the neighbors, in long-standing relationships, and even in traditions like the annual barbeque. Quindlen's formidable writing skills describe a slice of urban life which, however, can be difficult to appreciate if one hasn't lived it.  ALTERNATE SIDE received a starred review from Booklist.
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Thanks to the publisher and Netgalley for an eARC of this book.
An engaging read that is a bit slower than most by this author to get started. It is not my favorite Anna Quindlen but still 4 stars. She digs deeply into her characters and into living in NYC. Definitely worth reading.
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I've always enjoyed Anna Quindlen books...until this one.  The story was hard to follow.  The differing characters didn't seem to be in the same story.  I'm still a Quindlen fan, just not this book.
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Anna Quindlen's Alternate Side popped out at me because I both enjoy the author's work and the premise of a sinister event taking over a neighborhood block interested me.

Nora Nolan has lived on the same block for a decade and a half, and her children are now off to college. Her husband constantly wants to leave the city but she is a New Yorker down to her bones. They could sell their home for a pretty penny, but they have a hamlet in Manhattan that cushions them from the outside world while providing a sense of calm in the midst of the New York City storm. Everyone knows each other, even if they don't necessarily like each other, and life is good in stasis. That is, until an act of violence shatters their neighborhood milieu and pits neighbor against neighbor in a fight in who is right, who is wrong, and who can forget the actions of others.

Being a New Yorker while reading a book where New York is a character in the story is always an interesting phenomenon. On one hand, I can relate totally to all of the characters in different ways, while at the same time being completely jealous of fictional characters who had the good sense to purchase a home on a developing block early enough that they could have a brownstone. (Yeah -- I absolutely have property envy of fictional characters and I'm not ashamed to admit it.) I found that each of these characters portrayed in this book are people I have either known or run into in my decade plus here in the city -- the New Yorker down to her bones, the man who can't wait to move out of the city, the annoying neighbor who feels he owns the block, the older woman across the street who has more class in her pinkie than anyone else has in their whole bodies combined. I even knew Ricky, the handyman with a good heart and a life that no one cares to get to know. Quindlen has a knack for creating characters with full and intriguing arcs, and that was definitely a highlight in this novel.

I found this book to be quite a good read if a bit repetitive at times. By the middle of the book you get that Nora has always dreamed of living in NYC and nowhere else, and by the third or fourth time I read that missive, I wanted to yell, "I KNOW THAT NORA BUT FOR THE LOVE OF GOD, I AM TWO DECADES YOUNGER THAN YOU AND GOT OVER IT YOU CAN TOO." The build up to the violent act that rocks the neighborhood was a little overwrought; I was expecting something a bit bigger than what actually happened. I'm not discounting the events, because what happened has a lot of classist and racist undertones and is a hot topic in 2018, but I was expecting something more murder and mayhem-y in the way the blurbs were set up.

This was a lovely read that was thoughtful in so many ways. One thing I have been thinking on for days after finishing the book is marriage, love, and why we choose our partners. A marriage's demise is always due to many factors, and there is no explaining how one couple can stay together when they seem to be either one or two horrible people and another couple can fall apart when they seem so right for each other. The big theme that came out of this book is that marriages aren't always what they seem, and they serve different purposes for different people. It was an interesting and thoughtful theme, and well worth contemplating long after finishing this book.
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I usually love Anna Quindlen's writing, and this is no exception. Her word choice and characterization make her books wonderfully readable. Having said that, however, I really didn't enjoy this one much. It's a bit to "New York City" for me. I've never lived in NYC, nor do I ever want to live there. I don't have much patience for people who love NYC and don't see why everyone else doesn't love it as well. I suppose this colors my opinion of this book, but unless you LOVE New York City and think all its quirks and arrogance are appealing, just give this one a pass.

I found the main character, Nora, tiresome and didn't really care what happened to her. There are some wonderful moments here and some memorable characters among her neighbors. I found the secondary characters much more appealing and enjoyed the moments spent with the handyman, housekeeper, and Nora's boss much more than those spent with Nora. 

I want to thank NetGalley for the chance to read this. I don't regret spending the time reading this book because Quindlen's books are always a joy to experience, but this will not be high on my list of recommendations.
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Love Anna Quindlen, but this book- Meh. While Ms. Quindlien certainly has a terrific eye for exposing a certain kind of NYC aspirational snobbishness that is fun to read about, the book lacked something, namely a plot that mattered. Although there were life-changing situations, the tension was just not there. Kept waiting for something morally interesting to happen, beyond the main plot device, and it just didn't. Too bad.
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I always enjoy Anna Quindlen's writing. Her style and confidence takes the reader by the hand and guides her into another pocket of life. Her vignette's of life that are relatable, even if we haven't lived it, are a pleasure to read.
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A conflict in a parking lot will forever change the lives of many. Alternate Side is a story of a marriage and keeping the marriage together in tough times.
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