Alternate Sides

Nora Nolan loves New York and can't imagine living anywhere else. For her husband, Charlie, however, the city is "not his natural habitat," so when he scores a long-desired permanent parking space on their dead-end street, she indulges his crowing. Anna Quindlen's 10th novel, Alternate Sides, builds from this quotidian victory into a fast-paced novel of family dynamics, societal inequities and, eventually, choosing what matters most to make a satisfying life.

Nora and Charlie have an enviable city home, good jobs and loving, successful college-age twins. While Nora notes Charlie's apparent unrest with his life, overall things are good, and her career as manager of a jewelry museum and her close-knit friendships sustain her. She understands the neighbors, among them George, the self-appointed majordomo, and Jack, dour and short-tempered. All rely on Ricky, the Latino handyman who arrives in his van to fix the pipes, shovel the walks and rescue them from household emergencies. But the peace is shattered when Ricky is assaulted, apparently over a long-simmering parking conflict. Nora and Charlie argue over the incident and its investigation, illuminating their differing perspectives on life, and leading her to make dramatic choices.

Quindlen has a gift for realistic contemporary fiction; supporting characters are richly drawn and their dialogue is often humorous. ("Ice?" Nora asks her son in response to her daughter's text. "I Can't Even" he explains, teasing, "Get with the program, lady!") Quindlen captures the ambience of the city itself in countless details, and readers will appreciate Nora's affection for her New York life. --Cheryl Krocker McKeon, manager, Book Passage, San Francisco

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