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Object Lessons (Ballantine Reader's Circle) Paperback – June 23, 1997

3.8 out of 5 stars 61 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

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. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

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. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
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Product Details

  • Series: Ballantine Reader's Circle
  • Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Ballantine Books (June 23, 1997)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0449001016
  • ISBN-13: 978-0449001011
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.6 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (61 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #874,406 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By A Customer on August 8, 1999
Format: Paperback
Every now and again, we may come across an author whose writing style really touches us. And, every now and again, we may come across a story that stirs in us some indescribable, inexplicable, deep emotion within the core of our very soul. I believe I have found that author and that book. Anna Quindlen would be that author, and Object Lessons would be that book.
The first book I had read by Anna Quindlen was Black and Blue, which I had borrowed from my sister. Black and Blue was a highly captivating book because there was a lot going on with the plot of the book, but it was a bit sad at the same time. Black and Blue dealt with an abused woman who ran away with her son, and changed her identity so her husband wouldn't find her. As a result, that book was a bit on the darker side. Object Lessons has a total different feel to it. In this book, it's about an Irish-Italian family named the Scanlan's. This book centers mostly around Tommy Scanlan, and his Italian wife, Connie, and their 12-year-old daughter, Maggie. The couple has three other boys who are mentioned, but only in passing. The other three children are just background characters. Many a time, there's too many characters in a book, and in this case, it's very obvious that Anna Quindlen had an objective to focus on only a few main characters.
Tommy had married Connie when she became pregnant, and his Irish family -- his father, John Scanlan, in particular -- didn't approve. Since then, Connie had felt like an outsider with the other wives, and more than put out by her controlling father-in-law. John Scanlan was one of those larger-than-life characters, as he made a drama about most everything, and felt he had to control his sons, and only daughter, Margaret.
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By A Customer on September 5, 1999
Format: Mass Market Paperback
Having read One True Thing and Black and Blue, I knew I could rely on Quindlen to teach me new things about myself and my family--that she does, quite well. However, Object Lessons is much more weighed down by direct narrative than the other two books--at times, I found myself wishing the characters would talk to each other and quit thinking so much. I also found Maggie's age implausible--even the most precocious 12 and 13 year olds do not possess her incredible depth.
Connie's relationship with Tommy and subsequent realizations about what marriage is are the most powerful points in the book, and I credit Quindlen with another "perfect" ending--she is one author who does not leave her readers confused or disappointed on the final page.
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Format: Paperback
Boland addresses the struggles of a poetess finding her voice in a society which seems to lack a place for her. Through seemingly circular reasoning, she approaches, considers, defines, and returns to consider the significance of the events of Ireland and the writing of others in her own unique and powerful voice. An enchanting read that reminds women of their own experiences while addressing the dichotomy that keeps them separate.
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Format: Mass Market Paperback
This is the best book I have read in a long time. Many of my friends complained that it moved too slowly, but I attribute that slowness to the development of the characters. Although Maggie is the main character, I think of her as a catalyst to telling the "real" story: that of the metamorphasis of her family. Everyone comes to the point in their lives when they realize that their family is the the epitome of perfection, and this is the point in time when Maggie realizes this for her family, her friends, and herself. This is one of the few modern books I will keep in my personal library.
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By A Customer on June 23, 1999
Format: Paperback
This book has literally changed my perspective on life. I had to read this as a summer reading right before my junior year in high school and not only was this book fascinating, the characters that Anna Quindlen portrays are so true to life as are the situations. If ever you want to just curl up and read a book, this is the one. Literally, I tell all of my friends about this book. I can relate so much to Maggie's character and her journey through adolescence and maturity...
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I just finished teaching this work in conjunction with Boland's poetry. This collection is a rare combination of critical thought and poetic metaphor. The more you know about Boland's poetry, the more you will gain from reading _Object Lessons_, so try to read some of her poetry first before you read this volume. (There are also some very good You tube videos available of her reading if you would like to see her and hear her poetic voice.)

Some of her best known poems, especially "Mise Eire," "Persephone," and her poems on Irish history ("That the History of Cartography is Limited," "Famine Road", are extended and explained in successive chapters of this collection but subtly. The chapter "Outside History" is especially important in understanding Boland's growing equation of her own marginality as a woman poet with the historic marginality of Ireland itself. She begins to realize that she can be a better Irish poet because of her experience as an emigrant, as a woman.
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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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