Object lessons - By Anna Quindlen


Anna Quindlen’s story of Maggie Scanlan’s twelfth year in a Westchester County suburb next to the Bronx is a charming, compassionate little masterpiece—a story so compelling that one wishes at the end that it hadn’t stopped and that one could learn more about Maggie, who, although she doesn’t realize it, is a magic child on the way to being a magic woman …. No man could have possibly spun this strong yet gossamer story of what happens to a child when all the clear boundaries of her existence collapse in a single month …. It’s a fine novel, a brilliant novel, a story that makes one wait eagerly for Anna Quindlen’s next novel.”

—The Philadelphia Inquirer

“Warm and wry … Accessible, thoughtful … The novel has a quaint, old-fashioned feel. Decisions made early in life are irrevocable; unplanned pregnancy seals a couple’s fate. It isn’t lure of freedom that pulls Maggie Scanlan, the thirteen-year-old protagonist, but the familiar bonds of her life, the lines drawn ‘in her house, her neighborhood, her relationships ….’ During the summer that the novel chronicles, all these lines are blurred, shifted, or destroyed.”

—San Francisco Chronicle

“The characters are quirky and vividly drawn …. The writing is lovely, and shows the humor and quiet insight that made Quindlen’s column beloved …. Quindlen is an intelligent and imaginative writer.”

—The Boston Globe

“Rich in the precisely observed … With a quiet, sure touch, Quindlen carefully fits together the narrative pieces of individual desires, doubts, and development to create a satisfyingly complex mosaic of communal growth and change. There are dramatic events—a death, a fire, a wedding—but the more important activity of this novel takes place within its characters, as they pursue self-knowledge and closer connections with those they love.”



—The Orlando Sentinel

“A perceptive and appealing account of one summer in the life of Maggie Scanlan, age twelve going on thirteen, idol of her Irish grandfather’s eye, felt to be a kindred spirit by her Italian grandfather and a vulnerable witness not only to her own growing pains but also to those of father, mother, cousins, and friends, not to mention an aunt or two and assorted other acquaintances … Delightful.”

—Chicago Tribune

“Ms. Quindlen manages her score of characters with sure reins on detail and delineation …. [Her] writing is clean and lively, action lines are kept taut, and payoffs are faithfully attended to …. A solid job of storytelling, nicely seasoned with irony.”

—The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

“The novel itself is an object lesson—a richly developed portrayal of life within an Irish-Catholic family …. It is a triumphant story of overcoming stereotypes and prejudices, selfishness and loneliness, dissatisfaction and betrayal. And finding love …. An accomplished, funny, heartwarming novel about a time and place we all—without regard to age, religion, or region—will recognize.”

—The Miami Herald

“There is that warm, settled feeling, like the clasp of a child’s hand while crossing the street, that Anna Quindlen has brought us back home, where human nature—if not forgiven—is understood.”

—The Detroit News

“As graceful, humorous, and quietly insightful as her nonfiction … There’s reality in every moment of Object Lessons, and it is both painful and pleasurable to visit those moments through Quindlen’s rendering of a time and place many readers can vividly recall.”

—Chicago Sun-Time


One True Thing

Thinking Out Loud

Living Out Loud

Black and Blue

How Reading Changed My Life

A Short Guide to a Happy Life


Loud and Clear

Being Perfect

Rise and Shine

Good Dog. Stay.

Books for Children

The Tree That Came to Stay

Happily Ever After

For my mother and my father

Table of Contents


Other Books by This Author

Title Page


Chapter 1

Chapter 2

Chapter 3

Chapter 4

Chapter 5

Chapter 6

Chapter 7

Chapter 8

Chapter 9

Chapter 10

Chapter 11

Chapter 12

Chapter 13

Chapter 14

Chapter 15

Chapter 16

Chapter 17

Chapter 18

Chapter 19

Chapter 20

Chapter 21

Chapter 22

Chapter 23

Chapter 24

Chapter 25

A Conversation with Anna Quindlen

Reading Group Questions and Topics for Discussion

About the Author



EVER AFTER, WHENEVER SHE SMELLED the peculiar odor of new construction, of pine planking and plastic plumbingpipes, she would think of that summer, think of it as the time of changes. She would never be an imprecise thinker, Maggie Scanlan; she would always see the trees as well as the forest. It would have been most like her to think of that summer as the summer her grandfather had the stroke, or the summer her mother learned to drive, or the summer Helen moved away, or the summer she and Debbie and Bruce and Richard became so beguiled by danger in the broad fields behind Maggie’s down-at-heel old house, or the summer she and Debbie stopped being friends.

All those things would