If a novel about 'first-world problems,' as [protagonist] Nora’s daughter calls them, already has you rolling your eyes, remember that Quindlen, who won a Pulitzer Prize for commentary while a New York Times columnist, is one of our most astute chroniclers of modern life. This novel may be too quiet for some, too populated with rich whiners for others, but it has an almost documentary feel, a verisimilitude that’s awfully hard to achieve. There’s no moment that feels contrived or false, except perhaps to non-New Yorkers who may find it impossible to believe that anyone would consider $350 a month for a parking space a bargain too good to pass up.
Well-meaning people of the world who enlist others to clean their homes and nanny their children, prepare to be made uncomfortable by Quindlen’s astute observations about interactions between the haves and have-nots, and the realities of life among the long-married ... Quindlen’s book reads like a metaphor for our divisive times. Americans seem to live on alternate sides, scrapping any sense of unity in desperate pursuit of a parking space in the Big Apple of life.
Anna Quindlen has written a book that only a New Yorker — or at least someone who has lived there for a stint — could love. The rest of the world may have a hard time relating to the characters ... At 284 pages, the novel is taut and well-paced. You turn the pages wanting to know where things are headed. But in the end, the story seems all too unfamiliar to anyone who didn’t go to private school or attend catered community barbecues. You realize the events of the novel are Very Important to the characters, but to those of us looking in from the outside, it’s a story filled with first-world problems ... All told, if you’ve read Quindlen before and liked it, you’ll probably like this book. If this is your first time, it may be an acquired taste, but don’t let this review prevent you from giving it a shot.
Though she writes with a deceptive casualness about dashed dreams and squandered hopes, Quindlen’s quietly precise evaluation of intertwined lives evinces a keen understanding of and appreciation for universal human frailties. Complex themes and clever motifs make this eminently suitable for book groups.
It tells the story of one small, dead-end block in Manhattan and tries to use neighborhood life to examine the larger world ... But what stands out most for this male reader is the novel’s almost total disregard for men.
In lead character Nora Nolan’s world, men are children, boobs, boors, and Neanderthals incapable of containing their misplaced rage ... Quindlen is a good storyteller and Alternate Side zips along but it all feels so small, somewhat intentionally. The block is a microcosm of white privilege and mostly liberal elitism.
Quindlen’s careful details and well-developed characters are a constant, but forcing the low-scale drama of a neighborhood squabble to carry a novel is a lot to ask. The author offers flashes of humor ... Readers looking for surprise endings or twists won’t find much, but they will find characters who feel real as they struggle through changes to their previously near-perfect neighborhood.
Even if you’ve never been to Times Square and have no opinion on secret nostalgia for its 'nastier, scarier, dirtier' days, you may relate to the keen observational nuggets sprinkled throughout this book ... It’s the mature work of someone who knows marriages can be 'happy, miserable and somewhere in between,' and the path from one to the other can be as unpredictable as a mudslide and just as irreversible ... I would not consider Alternate Side my favorite Quindlen novel (that would be One True Thing, partly due to its film version), but I would have tracked it down even if not reviewing and then passed it along to others. It creates a vividly realized community where the lines are drawn between owners and renters, the well off and the immigrants they employ, and couples and friends who share a history that may — or may not — be enough to keep them on the same side of the street.
Bestseller Quindlen’s provocative novel (after Miller’s Valley) is a New York City drama of fractured marriages and uncomfortable class distinctions ... Quindlen’s novel is an exceptional depiction of complex characters—particularly their weaknesses and uncertainties—and the intricacies of close relationships.
The title of the book, it turns out, doesn’t just refer to parking. Quindlen’s sendup of entitled Manhattanites is fun but familiar. And though the author has been justly praised for her richly imagined female characters, Nora can seem more a type than a full-bodied woman. There’s insight here—about the precariousness of even the most stable-seeming marriages—and some charm, but the novel is not on a par with Quindlen’s best.