Synopses & Reviews
No matter which side of the nature/nurture debate you're on, Amy Lincoln's prospects do not look good. Her mother abandoned her when she was ten months old (just a couple of months after Amy's father went off to serve his first prison term), leaving her in the care of Grandma Lil, who shoplifts dinner on the way home from her job as a leg waxer to the rich and refined.
When Amy is fourteen, she gets a scholarship to a New England boarding school -- her exposure to the moneyed class. After Harvard and the Columbia School of Journalism, Amy becomes a political reporter for the prestigious weekly In Depth. While covering a political fund-raiser, Amy meets a college student who claims to be the son of one of the presidential candidates. It's precisely the sort of story that In Depth wouldn't deign to cover, but the idea of tracking down a lost parent and demanding recognition intrigues Amy. As she begins a search of her own past as well as the candidate's, she discovers a new and unimpeachable grandmother and a mother who is much more than she bargained for. Most important, she finally comes to understand the stuff she's made of and finds the perfect place to hang her hat in the world.
Bold, insightful, witty, and exhilarating, Any Place I Hang My Hat is a novel about one extraordinary young woman looking for a place to belong -- by one of the most compelling and beloved voices in contemporary fiction.
"A political reporter in her late 20s goes in search of the mother who abandoned her when she was a baby in this jaunty if rather jerky 10th novel by Isaacs (Long Time No See; Red, White, and Blue; etc.). Amy Lincoln was brought up in the projects by her Grandma Lil, a leg waxer and devoted Falcon Crest viewer; her amiable father, Chicky, spent most of Amy's childhood in prison on a series of minor theft raps. A boarding school scholarship rescues Amy from lower-class oblivion; she goes on to Harvard and Columbia, then lands a job at In Depth, a highbrow weekly. Upbeat and self-deprecating, Amy spends little time bemoaning her past, but an encounter with college student Freddy Carrasco, who claims he's the illegitimate son of a Democratic presidential candidate, gets Amy wondering where her own mother might be. While advising Freddy how to approach his father, she uses her reporting skills to track down her elusive mother. The political subplot is anticlimactic Amy doesn't even get a scoop and Amy's eventual reunion with her mother, revealed to be a chilly suburban housewife, is credibly if rather disappointingly subdued. The parade of lavishly and loopishly described secondary characters and gossipy New York scene-setting give the novel its zing; Amy's rocky relationship with her documentary filmmaker boyfriend provides a jolt of romantic excitement and a happy ending. Agent, Owen Laster. (Oct. 5) Forecast: This might not do as well as Isaacs's last novel, Long Time No See, which reintroduced popular Isaacs protagonist Judith Singer, but a major marketing campaign including heavy promotion in the New York area and a seven-city author tour should help it hit some bestseller lists." Publishers Weekly (Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information, Inc.)
From bestselling author Susan Isaacs--one of the most vibrant and compelling fictional voices of out time--comes a novel about one extraordinary young woman looking for a place to belong.
About the Author
Susan Isaacs was born in Brooklyn and educated at Queens College. Her novels include Compromising Positions, Close Relations, Almost Paradise, Any Place I Hang My Hat, and As Husbands Go. A recipient of the Writers for Writers Award and the John Steinbeck Award, Isaacs serves as chairman of the board of Poets & Writers, and is a past president of Mystery Writers of America. Her fiction has been translated into thirty languages. She lives on Long Island with her husband.
Reading Group Guide
QUESTIONS AND TOPICS FOR DISCUSSION
1. It has been nearly three decades since Amy's mother left her with Grandma Lil. What is it about Freddy Carrasco's story that makes Amy seriously consider looking for her mother after all this time? Why does she go out of her way to help Freddy, even referring him to a lawyer?
2. Amy spent her childhood in a low-income housing project, and in her teens she attended an elite private boarding school. How has each of these experiences contributed to shaping who she is? Has being a part of these two very different social classes actually been an asset to her?
3. What makes Amy and Tatty's friendship so strong? They are different in many ways-both in lifestyle and personality-but is there anything they have in common?
4. In one instance Amy reveals, "For the five thousandth time in my career I wished that instead of being a writer at In Depth, I could be something else, something with emotion" (pg 190). Why do you suppose Amy chose a career as a journalist? Does it have anything to do with its emphasis on fact and not on emotion, as she seems to indicate? How important is professional achievement to Amy?
5. As a reporter, part of Amy's job is to interview, evaluate, and observe other people and then depict them accurately in print. How does Amy see herself? How do others see her, including Tatty, John, Gloria, Chicky, Rose, and Aunt Linda? Compare Amy's public persona with the private person.
6. "I was quite young, sixteen or so, when I decided I wanted a child no matter what. Even back then, I understood I might not be anyone's idea of a prize in the marriage sweepstakes. So husband or no, I would have a baby. Be in a family" (pg 84). Are you surprised that Amy wants a child of her own? Why or why not? What do you think of her motivations for wanting a child? How does she reconcile her desire for a family with her fear that she might abandon her child, as her mother did?
7. How would you describe Amy's meeting with Rose? Did anything about their visit surprise you? What similarities do Amy and Rose share?
8. Tatty says to Amy, "Compare [Rose] to Grandma Lil and ChickyŠ. Lil was responsible. She probably even loved you in her own self-centered, clueless way. Even if she didn't, she did what was right. She stuck by you. And look at Chicky. He got out of jail and what was the first thing he did? Took care of youŠ. Both of them had good character" (pg 233). What does Amy come to realize about Grandma Lil that she might have misjudged? How about Chicky?
9. How come it took Amy until her 29th year to begin the search for her mother?
10. The first thing Véronique says to Amy when she sees her in the parking lot is, "Get away from me!" What does this reaction to Amy's appearance say about Véronique? When they sit down to talk, how does she justify leaving Amy? Do you have any feelings of empathy for Véronique?
11. Did Amy's conversation with her mother unfold as you expected it would? Why or why not? Does it unfold as Amy thought it would? Does Amy's conversation with her mother give her the closure she seeks?
12. In the beginning of the story Amy is intending to break off her relationship with John. What makes her realize that he is the man she wants to spend the rest of her life with? Do you think she and John are right for each other? Are the ups and downs Susan Isaacs portrays in their relationship realistic?
13. Who is more responsible for their breakup, Amy or John?
14. Susan Isaacs has said that "dialogue has always been the easiest for me. I hear it whether they're a fishwife in Brooklyn or like Tatty." What do you think about the dialogue in this book? Is this where the characters show their characters? Is it what makes the book vivid and lively?
15. Amy could easily have lived the life of "victim." What is there in her character and background that make her so resilient?
16. What does Amy learn about family during her search for her mother? Along the way, how do her relationships with the people around her change? What is the greatest change that happens to Amy? In the end, does she find a place to hang her hat?