Quindlen's writing is always smooth and sophisticated, and this is no exception. But "Alternate Side" is not one of her best. The opening seemed promising, but then it became very hard to get into for a long time. The major incident that everything revolves around doesn't happen until halfway through. At this point many people's lives, the "first world" people, as the daughter of Nora Nolan, the narrator, calls them, who live on the exclusive Manhattan dead end block, and the non-whites who keep their lives running, begin to fall apart. The last third of the book is Quindlen at her introspective, witty best, and almost makes up for the nearly plotless beginning.

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