Locked Up

It's been too long since I've felt like locking my kids in a closet so I could finish a book. I do the next best legal thing, which is give myself an extended bathroom break. That door is so rarely locked that it brings momentary stunned silence to the yelling and swirling vortex of boy energy I seldom escape.

"Mommy! I can't find my spelling words and I hurt my knee!"
"What are you doing in there?"
"What's for dinner? I hate Brussels sprouts, so I hope it's not those Brussels sprouts on the counter!"
"Mama! Hold you and READ THIS BOOK!"
"Mommy? Why aren't you answering me?"

The noise swirls from tentative to insistent and back to tentative as small fists tap an impatient rhythm on the door and smaller fingers poke beneath it like the legs of exploratory spiders. The spiders push Maisy Cleans Up, a book I have read 437 times in the last week, under the bathroom door. I know it's 437 times because I have been carving decorative marks into my own arm at each reading like a prison tattoo. I ignore the cheerful white mouse and her vacuum cleaner and her cupcakes and her crocodile friend Charley. (Why do they mop and vacuum the floor BEFORE eating cupcakes? And why doesn't Charley just eat Maisy and put me out of my misery?)

The New York Times has already told you to read this book that is inspiring me to neglect my children, so you probably don't need me telling you as well. But I'll tell you anyway because I can't stop myself and really it's no use trying.

Read The Gate at the Stairs by Lorrie Moore. Yes, you may wait a long time for a library copy. But you will wait longer for another book that will knock your fictional character-driven socks off. I want to weep when I read a novel this compelling, this rich. It gives you that elusive combination of both story and story-telling when so often these days you get one or the other and maybe not so much of either most of the time.

It gives you a gift. So open it. And ignore the fat little finger worms wiggling under the door for a few minutes. It won't be hard.