Alternate Side

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date: 21 May 2018

Member Reviews

At one point in Alternate Side one of the Nolan twins scolds Nora over what she calls "first-world problems." That's sort of what this book hinges on, particularly the first-world problems of upper-middle class Manhattanites.

New York City itself plays big role in the book and some reviewers have pointed out that there will be readers who can't relate to the first-world problems this neighborhood faces or life in Manhattan. That may be true but it shouldn't necessarily stop someone from reading the book. After all, I've read, and enjoyed, many books set in the South, or California, or France and I've never lived there. It's one of the things that makes reading great: the chance to really learn about the way a different group of people live. Even if they are upper-middle class Manhattanites who think that paying $350 a month for an off-the-street parking spot is a bargain.

Quindlen uses parking throughout the book, in fact, to help tell a story about the have's and the have-not's, marriage, parenthood, and values. Alternate side refers to more than just a particular parking regulation in parts of Manhattan that has residents of the Nolan's dead end block scrambling on a daily basis; it refers to the different ways people can see an issue, the different sides of the socio-economic strata, the different ways parents and children view the world.

I'm a huge Quindlen fan and I sort of feel the same way about her as I do about Jane Austen - even one of her books that's not my favorite is still better than most. Alternate Side is one of those books. There are a lot of interesting ideas here; there was a lot that I felt really spoke to me or really put truth into words. But...it is not my favorite Quindlen book. Why, I keep wondering? Well, those people who said readers wouldn't be able to relate to these characters are right to an extent; I did have trouble connecting to these characters. Since this is a book that's so character driven, it's tough to connect with the story because of that. But, a week after reading the book, I'm still thinking about it and about what Quindlen has to say about communication between husbands and wives, parents and children, neighbors, coworkers, employers and employees.

I'm still thinking about what Quindlen has to say about society.
"The women were talking about people, the men talking about things. It was why so many of the men prospered on Wall Street and in the big law firms, where things could be turned into money and people were interchangeable and even insignificant, and there were hardly any women running the show."
I'm still thinking about what Quindlen had to say about marriage and relationships.
"Charlie, one-l no-d Nolan, literal, guileless, all the things that would eventually make her sometimes want to scream, on that night, in this city, made her feel like that moment when you walk out of the waves, teeth chattering, gooseflesh from shoulder to ankle, and someone wraps you in a towel. That towel is just a towel, ordinary, humdrum, but at that one moment it feels like fur, better than fur, like safety, care, the right thing."
"...they all assumed that if their marriages ended, it would be with a big band: the other woman, the hidden debts. Nora had had more reasons than most to imagine that, veteran of a grand passion built on a big lie. But now she thought that was an aberration. The truth was that their marriages were like balloons: some went suddenly pop, but more often than not the air slowly leaked out until it was a sad, wrinkled little thing with no life to it anymore."
So, while this might not have been my favorite Quindlen book, I'm happy I read it. Any book that keep you thinking long after you read it is a good thing, isn't it?
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2.75 stars, rounded up to 3.

My deep and abiding love for Anna Quindlen drew me to this book without reading anything about the storyline.  I'm still looking for the specific words for why it fell short for me, but it did.

This is the story of Charlie and Nora - a middle-aged upper-class couple who live on a unique dead-end street in the Upper West side of Manhattan.  I'm not personally especially familiar with the ins and outs of Manhattan living, but I love New York and have read a lot about living there as well as having spent a good deal of time there simply exploring.  That said, I just couldn't relate to a lot of the intrinsic details of the story because it relied so much on the specific experience of living IN the city.  Parking, the parking lot, the ins  & outs of wealthy people and their experiences with their staff, their handyman and the dynamics between the families on the street all play into the story.

It was a little slow for me initially, despite the fact that I'm fairly close in age to the main characters and can relate to the idea of surviving a marriage post-departure of the children that are the focal point of a marriage for the first 15-20 years.  

I love the way Anna Quindlen writes.  I highlighted a number of passages for their poignancy.   I liked the characters a lot, but I just didn't love or hate any of them.  It was an enjoyable story but I doubt anything about it will stand out to me in a few months.
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Captivating, suspenseful, entertaining novel! This beautiful thriller kept me on the edge of my seat while I was reading it! Would highly recommend to those who enjoy this genre.
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If this had been a debut novel or written by someone not as popular as Anna Quindlen, I would not have finished reading this book. About a quarter of the way in, I thought "what's the point of this book?' It all came together at the end, but it took a long time to do so.
Life happens and that was the underlying theme. I really enjoyed reading about living in NYC as I had always wondered what that would be like.
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I was disappointed unfortunately. I found the characters two dimensional and shallow. I expected more depth.
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Best suited to women “of a certain age,” I would say, this work is a departure from some of Quindlen's earlier novels; a great choice for fans of LOTS OF CANDLES, PLENTY OF CAKE, which she published in 2012. ALTERNATE SIDE is full of real talk about marriage, friendships and NYC; I absolutely loved this one.

One of my favorite quotes from the book: “People go through life thinking they’re making decisions, when they’re really just making plans, which is not the same thing at all. And along the way, they get a little damaged, lots of tiny cracks, holding together but damaged still.”
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I like Quindlen's writing style - it's simple and straightforward. However, literally nothing happened in the entirety of this book. I kept waiting for storylines to develop, but they just didn't. The biggest piece of action is centered around whether NYC neighbors can use their parking structure or not (literally). Definitely a disappointment.
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Anna Quindlen writes contemporary fiction, and her latest is Alternate Side. Nora, her husband, Charlie, and their twin children, Rachel and Oliver, live in a lovely home on a rare dead-end street on the Upper West Side of Manhattan. 



Charlie is in finance, but the time has passed when he will become top-tier in his world. Nora is the director of a small museum of jewelry, and the twins are seniors away at college.

The most exciting thing to happen to Charlie is that he has finally been awarded a coveted parking spot in the small outdoor lot on their street. All of the men on the street want a spot there, and those that have one have a certain level of prestige.

One of the neighbors, George, takes it upon himself to be the mayor of the street, dropping off missives at everyone’s home with instructions on everything from parking to what kind of flowers to plant. Nora and most of the other women can’t stand him.

Ricky is the handyman on the street, taking care of everything from a clogged drain to a furnace that needs to be replaced. George and another man frequently yell at Ricky when he parks his van on the street, partially blocking the entrance to the parking lot.

After an incident with Ricky, things spiral out of control. Sides are taken, with neighbor against neighbor, and even husband against wife.

Quindlen’s story is relevant in today’s world. We see how Nora’s interactions with Ricky, her housekeeper, Charity, and Phil, the not-really-homeless guy outside her office, reflect her conflict with the haves versus the have-nots in society. Charlie does not share her concerns, and that causes problems in their marriage.

Alternate Side is one of Quindlen’s best novels. Her commentary on marriage, parenting, identity and privilege are thought-provoking and insightful, and you feel that you could run into her characters on any street on the Upper West Side of New York.



If you read
BOOK: "To Die But Once” by Jacqueline Winspear

GRADE: A

PUBLISHER: Harper

COST: Hardcover, $27.99

LENGTH: 336 pages

BOOK: “Alternate Side” by Anna Quindlen

GRADE: A+

PUBLISHER: Random House

COST: Hardcover, $28



LENGTH: 288 pages
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I love Quindlen's work and and am always amazed at the depth of her characterization. In Alternate Side we have Nora Nolan, mother of adult twins, somewhat beleaguered wife to Charlie, jewelry museum head, and private home owner on a dead end New York street with a coveted private parking lot.

Alternate Side examines Nora's relationship with Charlie, her twins, her indispensable housekeeper, the handyman who works for the neighborhood, and a diverse cast of neighbors. Her life is going along ho hum until an incident with one of the neighbors regarding the coveted parking lot sets events in motion that serve to change Nora's life as she knows it. A mini love letter to NYC!

Excellent read!
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3 stars I liked it. 

The was the story of a marriage, a community, friends, jobs, children, and a parking lot. Yes you read that right, a parking lot. The novel tells the story of Nora and Charlie. Things seem to be fine for the happily married, empty nesters, until an act of violence changes everything. 

I think the novel was well written and I felt as though I could have walked into their community barbecue and immediately known who all the players were, just based on descriptions.The tangled web that is woven in the community and the consequences from one act have such lasting involvement throughout. The characters are so relatable, we all know them in our own lives. We all know a George, president of the homeowners association, who has a little power and completely lets it go to his head. We all know a Bebe, who tends to look down on us because we don't have as much as she does. These characters can and do exist out in the real world. 

Overall, I liked the book. Would I recommend? Possibly if you are already a fan of the author. If the author is new to you, then it may be a pass. 

Thank you to the publishers and netgalley for a copy.
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A slice of life novel by Anna Quindlen focusing on a well-off married couple living on a quiet dead end street in New York. Their life seems great until something happens on their street, and they find themselves on opposite sides.

I struggled a little bit to get into this novel, but once I did I enjoyed it. I liked the little community she created and all of the personalities that inhabited it. I felt like she really thought about the details. This was a strong 3.5 stars for me, but I couldn't quite convince myself to round it up to 4. Close though.
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Well written and crafted characters but I just could not connect with anyone. Made it to 45% and could not power on.
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3.5 Stars* (rounded up)

Parking spaces and marital strife are at the heart of “Alternate Side” by Anna Quindlen.  Nora and Charlie live on a dead end street in NYC.  Their life is consumed with work and their kids.  And then it happens - after many years of living on their street, Charlie finally gets that coveted parking spot and he couldn’t be happier.  For him, it is the ultimate, it means he has arrived.  Nora, on the other hand, can’t help but find the whole thing a bit ridiculous.  And that my friends, is marriage.  Thereafter,  a horrific accident happens in the parking lot where Charlie has that coveted space and then everything goes awry.  

Anna Quindlen is an expert at writing about people, relationships and what makes them tick and doing so quite eloquently.  “Alternate Side” is no different.  Lives are looked at under a microscope and marriages are dissected.  It’s as real as life can get.  If you’ve ever been married, then this is a book you can relate to.  While I enjoyed the novel and love Ms. Quindlen’s writing style, I found it to be lacking something.  Perhaps it was the characters, none of whom I thought were that likable, or perhaps it was just that it reminded me too much of everyday married life. That said, there were several humorous passages, at which I couldn’t help but smile, thus if you like Anna Quindlen or are looking for a novel about familial relationships, this one might be for you.  

Thank you to NetGalley, Random House Publishing Group - Random House, and Anna Quindlen for an ARC of this novel in exchange for an honest review.

Published on NetGalley and Goodreads on 4.21.18.
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Alternate Sides gets it’s name from the neighbors who live on a dead-end New York street and those who work for them. Each end of the socioeconomic spectrum are represented in this book by Anna Quindlen as they navigate marriage, living amongst each other, and city life. I have read quite a few books by Anna Quindlen, but this one fell short for me. Normally I dive into her books and find myself smiling along with the characters, but the characters in this book weren’t really likable for me. The plot does pick up, but it takes quite a while for it to be anything other than back-and-forth about a “parking lot” on their dead-end NYC road. I would suggest this book, but overall I gave it 3 stars because it didn’t feel like a tried-and-true Quindlen book that I have always fallen for, like her others .
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Alternate Side is about upper-class families who live in a dead end block on Manhattan's Upper West Side. The main character, Nora Nolan, and her husband have spent a majority of their lives following the status quo, climbing up the social ladder, and now find themselves in the empty apex of a post-mid life crisis. The book allegorizes an Upper West Side parking situation with the social stratification of New York City and does not fully commit on humanizing the social stratification. 

Quindlen introduces characters to draw out the stratification, but honestly comes far short to the extent that Ricky from the Bronx and Charity, the maid, just become exploited props to the larger narrative of Nora's classist guilt.

The allegory extends to Nora and Charlie's spiraling marital malaise as well to speak on how marriages can often warp to center on children and their development that you only realize that the spark of primordial romance once had is long gone. They stand on an alternate side of their marriage where all that has been accumulated also no longer produces the joy and fulfillment once envisioned. 

I don't deny that the characters go through a very real experience - but to equivocate Ricky's survivalist struggles with these upper-class problems just made me feel violated. They really are not the same. The plot was very boring, the writing felt forced, and a lot of the characters that could have offered dynamism to the plot just seemed to be caricatured. Couldn't wait to be done with this one.
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Hitting her usual bulls-eye with marriage commentary, in Alternate Sides Anna Quindlen tells the story of a seemingly happy marriage, that just ran down and out. Nora and Charlie raised their twins on a dead end block in New York City. The neighbors were friendly and it felt like a true neighborhood. They both had good jobs. But when one neighbor violently attacks someone over a parking issue, Nora and Charlie realize they have different opinions about it, and, different opinions on the way they want their lives to proceed. The cracks in the marriage come to the surface and both characters must decide what they really want out of life.
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There is such humor and grace in everything Quindlen writes.  You turn pages praying that the story won't end yet wanting to know everything about every character.
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“If nobody can tell the difference between real and fake, who cares if fake is what you’re showing?”

Score another one for Anna Quindlen. Often prodigious writers lapse into formulas, becoming predictable, but not Quindlen, who brings a snappy, original tale to the reader every time. She makes us think, and she makes us like it. Big thanks go to Random House and Net Galley for letting me read it free and early. This book is for sale now. 

The story is built around a controversy that develops around that most prized acquisition among financially successful New Yorkers: a parking place. Local ordinances have a Byzantine set of rules involving parking on alternate sides of the street, and the neighborhood’s homeowners are sick to death of going out to move the car. A privately owned parking lot leases spaces, but there aren’t enough to go around, and a seniority system makes some residents intense; think of the rent-controlled apartments that get passed down like family heirlooms, and then you’ll have the general idea. 

Ultimately, however, the parking place is metaphor, and perhaps allegory, for other aspects of life that go much deeper, and the way Quindlen unspools it is not only deft, but also funny as hell in places. 

New Yorkers will appreciate this novel, but others will too. This reviewer is one of those visitors that Quindlen’s characters regard with scorn, the people that pop into town, gawk, buy things, and then leave again. But I’m telling you that despite the title, this is not just—or even mainly—a book for New Yorkers. 

The audience that will love this book hardest is bound to be people like the main characters: white middle-class readers old enough to have grown children. But the take-down of petite bourgeois assumptions and attitudes is sly, incisive, and clever as hell. 

At one point I began highlighting, for example, the many ways in which the phrases “you people” and “these people” are wielded. 

Here is a final word of caution: if you are contemplating divorce, this may tip you over the brink. On the other hand, maybe that’s just what you need. 

Highly recommended to those that love strong fiction and occasionally are visited by that “crazy liberal guilt thing.”
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Anna Quindlen delivers a captivating, slowly burning story involving trepidation in a neighborhood and a family that begins with a parking place. As more secrets are revealed, the unraveling of relationships that strengthens others is set among the clashes of the varying socioeconomic statuses of families in one community. 

Quindlen's writing captures authentic issues and relationships in neighborhoods and families today, a realistic portrait of modern society. This story portrays the "alternate sides" of how characters view situations, dependent on their life situations. A timely novel, this moving story centers class, money, and discovery of one's true purpose.

Thank you to Netgalley, Random House, and Anna Quindlen for an ARC.
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I want to thank the publisher, Random House, and Netgalley for providing me with an ARC of this book in exchange for my honest review. 
I have not read any books from this author, Anna Quindlen before, but I really enjoyed her writing style as it was so easy to read. This story is about the neighbors living on a dead end street in Manhattan. The story is told through the eyes of Nora Nolan. I find her thoughts and observations about life and marriage very much on point and very funny. The title is very befitting as it show cases the lives of the have and the have-nots.  The main event is an incident about parking spaces, which is so typical of New York and this event results in neighbors picking sides, but also put an magnifying glass on their own “perfect lives”.
Some reviewers have commented that they did not like the characters, but I did like very much, not because they were necessarily  likeable but because they were  so real  and not exaggerated to enhance the storyline. We all know these characters in real life. I highly recommend this book.
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