So good that Michiko Kakutani turns critiques into compliments just so she can keep saying how great the book is.

Although the characters in “A Gate at the Stairs” also have an annoying tendency to play coy little word games and make lame little jokes — it’s a kind of nervous tic that enables them to detach themselves from threatening situations — Ms. Moore grapples in these pages with the precariousness of life and the irretrievable losses that accumulate over the years…

Neither Reynaldo nor Sarah and Edward turn out to be who they say they are: revelations that Ms. Moore does a clumsy job of orchestrating (and in the case of Reynaldo, an absurd job of suggesting who he really is). In the hands of most writers such fumbles would instantly derail their story lines, but Ms. Moore is so deft at showing the fallout these discoveries have on her heroine that the reader speeds easily over the narrative bumps.