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Object Lessons Hardcover – Apr 9 1991


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 262 pages
  • Publisher: Random House (April 9 1991)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0394569652
  • ISBN-13: 978-0394569659
  • Product Dimensions: 1.9 x 16.5 x 24.8 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 544 g
  • Average Customer Review: 3.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (26 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #1,891,853 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

From Publishers Weekly

Readers of her "Life in the 30s" column in the New York Times (collected in Living Out Loud ) know Quindlen as an astute observer of family relationships. Her first novel is solid proof that she is equally discerning and skillful as a writer of fiction. To sensitive Maggie Scanlan, the summer when she turns 13 is "the time when her whole life changed." Aware that her father, Tommy, had outraged the wealthy Scanlan clan by marrying the daughter of an Italian cemetery caretaker, Maggie is a bridge between her "outcast" mother and her grandfather, whose favorite she is. Domineering, irascible, intolerant John Scanlan looks down on both Pope John XXII and President Kennedy for deviating from traditional Catholic doctrine. His iron hand crushes his wife and grown children, and when he decides that Maggie's parents and their soon-to-be-five offspring should move from their slightly shabby Irish Catholic Bronx suburb to a large house in Westchester which he has purchased for them, tension between her parents escalates and Maggie's loyalties are tested. But other unexpected events--her grandfather's stroke, her mother's attraction to a man of her own background, her best friend's defection, her first boyfriend--serve both to unsettle Maggie and to propel her across the threshold to adulthood. Quindlen's social antennae are acute: she conveys the fierce ethnic pride that distinguishes Irish and Italian communities, their rivalry and mutual disdain. Her character portrayal is empathetic and beautifully dimensional, not only of Maggie but of her mother, who experiences her own wrenching rite of passage. This absorbing coming-of-age novel will draw comparisons with the works of Mary Gordon, but Quindlen is a writer with her own voice and finely honed perceptions. Literary Guild alternate; author tour.
Copyright 1991 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From School Library Journal

YA-- This first novel is an insightful family chronicle, an informed commentary on the '60s, and the coming-of-age depiction of a mother and daughter. As 13-year-old Maggie struggles with her identity within the boisterous Scanlan clan, her mother also finds her own place within the patriarchal family that has never accepted her. Both women experience rites of passage during the fateful summer that a housing development is being built behind their home, infringing on their emotional and physical spaces. A fast-paced plot involves small fires set in the development by Maggie's friends and romantic tension between her mother and a man from her past. Readers will appreciate Maggie's dilemmas as she grapples with peer pressure and sexual bewilderment, and as she begins to understand her mother, whose discontent oddly parallels her own. --Jackie Gropman, Richard Byrd Library, Springfield, VA-
Copyright 1991 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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First Sentence
EVER AFTER, WHENEVER SHE SMELLED THE PECULIAR ODOR of new construction, of pine planking and plastic plumbing pipes, she would think of that summer, think of it as the time of changes. Read the first page
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Customer Reviews

3.3 out of 5 stars

Most helpful customer reviews

By A Customer on May 27 2004
Format: Mass Market Paperback
I've been meaning to read some of Anna Quindlan's work, and this one was at the libary, so I thought, why not? Well, all I can say is that if Quindlen wasn't a well known writer, this is the type of manuscript that an editor would toss into the trash.
Too many characters, too many POV, to the point where you really got them confused. No plot, no story. The cliches were enough to make you cry, as were the stereotyped characters. The mean and demanding family patriarch, the family feud because a member married someone who wasn't their own kind, the precocious 13 year old girl. None of these characters are really explained, or have any depth. For example, why does Connie start seeing another man? Why is Maggie intrigued with fire? Why is her cousin so mean? And what's with the nun, who was reading Jane Eyre? Whatever was that about?
I couldn't wait to return this trash to the library. I seriously thought about just telling the library I had lost it, so no one else would mistakenly take this out, thinking that the Quindlen name means its a decent read.
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Format: Mass Market Paperback
There are sufficient descriptions of the storyline of this book in previous reviews. There aren't too many characters IMO, and if the conflicts of the protagonist don't seem deeply examined, perhaps Ms. Quindlen should receive kudos for not writing a twelve/thirteen year old girl who has all the insights of an adult. We are, after all, seeing her conflicts through her eyes. It's a quick and easy read, and as it is written largely from the perspective of an adolescent, it is a bit like going back and re-reading a book from one's own adolescence, with the possible twist of also re-living one's own adolescence a bit. This book never made me cry, nor did it ever make me laugh out loud, so if you're looking for cathartic involvement, this may not be the book you're looking for. If you're looking for a quiet read that examines emotional transitions with some distance and objectivity, you're closer to the mark. The story's best moments are those which describe Maggie's times alone, which include some nice sense-memory descriptions and accurately portray the near-disembodied feelings of isolation of an adolescent girl. I was drawn to Maggie's parents, and while there is some nice development of her mother Connie (particularly with respect to her relationship to Maggie and her relationship to motherhood in general) I found myself at the end of the book without the corresponding insight into her father Tommy that I was looking for. The story is strangely simultaneously depressing and comforting- the resolution is that there are no real resolutions, and as Maggie's mother says, that things aren't good or bad, things just are.
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Format: Paperback
As a summer reading assignment I thought that Object Lessons would be boring as most reading projects usually are. Except this was not the case. One of my friends also assigned the books had started reading when she told me that it was a great book. Thus I began reading and was unable to put Object Lessons down. The book gave great examples of hatred within a family such as between John Scanlan, a full blooded Italian, and Connie, his Irish daughter in-law. The books shows how because of different hertiages one whole family within an extended family seemed to be alienated. Yet the end will suprise you on John Scanlan's true feelings. It was great for as much as Moncia seemed to believe that she was better than Maggie's family she was no better. Also Object Lessons shows a person is able to continue when they lose two people who are really important to them in a very short time. I loved this page turner even if it seemed to have too many characters. But if one of the characters was not their then the book would not have had the qualities that it has and been as great as it is. For example, Maggie's other grandfather was needed to give perspective on John Scanlan and the differance on how Tommy and Connie were raised.
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Format: Paperback
I read Anna Quindlen's essays in Newsweek with passion and devotion. In picking up one of her books, I expected to see the same richness of language and depth of expression and thought that draws me to her exposition.
Unfortunatly, I was disappointed. One of the best things that a novelist can do for his/her book is to pare down the number of characters and then give them each many dimensions and depth...make them real, make them matter.
I felt as though there were way too many characters in the book to really become attached to any of them. 12 year old Maggie occupies most of the story, but her conflicts are not well examined. Why does she care so much about losing her ditzy friend? Why is she drawn to fire? What is her *feeling* about fire? Why does she cling to a grandfather that alienates her mother? Why does her ex-best friend's much adored older sister favor her so much and vice versa? Either the character has limited feelings, or the depth of her emotion is only slightly alluded to on the page. There are about five or six other characters that are given significant portions, but at a scant 261 pages, the reader doesn't get to know or love them well. You wonder what makes Monica so mean, why Connie considers cheating, why Tommy won't partner with his brother, why Celeste is in the book at all.
I felt that the end dragged on, and was riddled with cliches. Every other line seems to begin with, "And she knew..." ...[the voice in her head] was her grandfather's voice. ...that 20 years from now she would still hear all those voices ...that as long as they stayed there sheould be able to do all the things she had to do ...that even a week from now things would be different.
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