The Washington Post
Any Place I Hang My Hatby Susan Isaacs
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… See more details below
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.
The Washington Post
Jennifer Weiner, author of Good in Bed and Little Earthquakes
"I loved Any Place I Hang My Hat it's got a wonderful main character, Amy Lincoln, and it is smart, suspenseful, and the funniest and richest of Susan Isaacs's novels."
Meg Wolitzer, author of The Wife and The Position
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Read an Excerpt
I stepped off the elevator right into the entrance gallery of the co-op. Wow. It was oval. White marble floor, black lacquered walls, ringed with eight or ten white columns topped with marble busts, like a hall of fame for some minor sport. The hostess of the fund-raiser eyed my photo ID, which hung from a metal bead chain. "Well," she said, "In Depth magazine. I absolutely adore it."
"Tha -- " I replied.
I didn't get out nk you because she cut me off: "Is the photographer meeting you here?"
"Sorry, we don't use them. No photos, no illustrations." She'd had her eyes done, so they couldn't open wider than they already were. Still, I sensed she was surprised. "Only text," I explained. "We're the serious, boring weekly."
"Right. Of course no photos. I don't know what I was thinking. But don't call In Depth boring. I think people are feeling desperate for depth these days. Well, enjoy. Feel free to help yourself to hors d'oeuvres." Her dress, I noticed, was the 2003 New York noncolor, white. Ivory silk bands were sewn horizontally, making her look as if she'd stopped her own mummification to join the party.
Although the words In Depth on my press credentials were clear enough to her, I could see she couldn't quite make out my name. I helped her. "Amy Lincoln." A microsecond of hostess uncertainty: Lincoln? Her upper lip twitched. Should her first smile have been warmer? Her heretofore unlined forehead furrowed as she pondered asking: Any relation to the -- ?
If she could have seen the rest of the fruit on our family tree, she wouldn't have pondered. Any relation to the -- ? Please! So where did the name come from? Though highly unlikely, it's conceivable that Grandma Lillian Lincoln's explanation of the family surname was a misconception, not her usual flagrant lie: something to the effect that in the penultimate year of the nineteenth century, some Protestant clerk on Ellis Island with an antic sense of humor wrote down "Samuel Lincoln" when my great-grandfather -- full of beard, dark of eye, and large of nose -- stepped before him.
More likely, Great-grandpa Schmuel Weinreb heard the names Washington and Lincoln while hanging out around the pickle barrel in downtown Nizhni Novgorod listening to stories about the Golden Land. Flipping a kopek, he got tails. Could he truly have believed that by being a Lincoln, he could keep anyone in New York from noticing his six extant teeth and ten words of English? Probably. My family tended to prefer fantasy to actual thought.
Take Grandma Lil. She took the subway uptown a day or two or three a week to fill in as a substitute waxer, ripping the hair off the lips, legs, and random chins of the famous and the merely rich at Beauté, an uptown, upscale salon.
From the jet-set and celebrity clientele, Grandma learned about the finer things of life, information she felt obliged to pass on to me, mainly because no one else would listen. Inadvertently, she also taught me what not to do. Early on, I sensed that pointing out that one shouldn't wear white shoes before Memorial Day was not the way to endear oneself to one's neighbors in one's low-income housing project.
Anyhow, a hundred and five years after Great-grandpa Schmuel, there I was, Amy Lincoln, at a political fund-raiser hosted by some men's footwear magnate in his ten-room co-op on Central Park West. His wife, now high on the abracadabra combo of In Depth and Lincoln, murmured to me: "If you want something more than hors d'oeuvres, I can have our chef, Jean-Pierre, whip up a light supper." This time she aspirated the hors hard enough for me to get a whiff of the garlic in Jean-Pierre's boudin blanc terrine. I said no thanks.
Listen, I was there to do my job, to observe the most recently declared Democratic candidate for the presidential nomination, Senator Thomas Bowles of Oregon. Originally the scion of an old and still-monied New York family, Bowles had gone west and made a larger, eco-friendly fortune for himself by finding some new way to recycle tires.
Normally, reporters were not allowed into private homes for events like these, probably on the theory that they'd pick up a disparaging remark and use it as their lead. Or they'd glom a thousand bucks' worth of Beluga, leaving seventy-five potential contributors with two hundred pygmy buckwheat blinis and a surfeit of lemon wedges. The senator's campaign manager, normally a human piranha, had made an exception for me because In Depth was so dignified it never published bitchy observations regarding a candidate's dyed hair or ferocious temper. And naturally, any insinuations about unconventional sexual predilections, even really sick and/or fantastically interesting ones, were left to lesser periodicals.
Anyhow, I'd been traveling with Senator Bowles's campaign for a few days now. I'd watched him avoid probably thirty thousand empty calories by sipping bottled water, and was awed by his willpower and robust bladder. Politically, he was a little to the left of where I stood; the word evil -- à la Reagan's evil empire and W's axis of evil -- wasn't in his vocabulary, and corporation was consistently a pejorative. Still, going on this campaign swing had been a plus for me. I was impressed by the thoughtful way Thom Bowles spoke about his big issues. With eagerness, too, as though complex ideas were not to be recoiled from but enjoyed. I admired his I-dare-you-to-call-me-liberal American flag pin as well as his clarity: Two days earlier, in Story City, Iowa, his explanation of the social and psychological underpinnings of global terrorism had turned an audience of small business owners from thinking "pinko weenie tree-hugger" to "Hey, he really knows his stuff."
Bowles was in his second term in the Senate, and from the start of his political career, he'd been a frequent talking head on news shows. His depth of knowledge, aw-shucks persona, and seeming lack of self-righteousness combined with a bit of humor made his the perfect response to all those ranting right-wing babes with Alice-in-Wonderland hair and Jewish neo-cons so low-key they appeared anesthetized. Also, he could make ordinary voters comprehend the gravity of issues -- the greenhouse effect, the crises in Social Security funding and in the penal system -- that usually left them snoring.
Alas, his campaign had gotten off to a bumpy start. During his announcement of his candidacy, the senator proclaimed: "Our penile system is in atrocious shape!" A single, nervous fluff in a career remarkably free of bloopers and gaffes. After cruel and hilarious coverage on The Daily Show, the other late-night talk show hosts kept it alive for two weeks. This had been Thomas Bowles's first penile-free week, but his usual fluency and light touch had diminished; he actually seemed rattled. Day after day, sprinkles of sweat covered his forehead. He couldn't seem to stop inserting uhs as if they were commas, so on guard was he against a "pubic policy" suddenly bursting forth.
I glanced toward the living room. I figured the senator must be in the center of the herd of Manhattanites standing between the marble-covered Italian console that was serving as a bar and a Louis-probably-XV chair so commodious that at least three Bourbons could have sat side by side by side on its gold-damask-covered seat. However, Thom Bowles was not easy to spot. While he photographed as Strapping Western Outdoor Man, with rectilinear jaw and skin the color of a sun-dried tomato, he was not much more than five foot seven and built along the lines of a gazelle.
Meet the Author
Susan Isaacs is the author of thirteen novels, including As Husbands Go, Any Place I Hang My Hat, Long Time No See, and Compromising Positions. She is a former editor of Seventeen and a freelance political speechwriter. She lives on Long Island with her husband. All of her novels have been New York Times bestsellers.
- Sands Point, New York
- Date of Birth:
- December 7, 1943
- Place of Birth:
- Brooklyn, New York
- Honorary Doctorate, Queens College
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
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This is a great story but I found too much description of everything from the furniture in a room and what everyone in the room wore down to the last detail. Also in what she imagined people would say to her, either good or bad. I almost put it down a couple of times but ended up determined to finish it. I did and am glad! Amy has a lot of spirit and drive and a great social worker to guide her.
I just fell in love with this book. It moved me to have a self-knowledge, that I too haven't recieved closure with my mother. I laughed, I cried, & I couldn't put it down! This book is great if you just want an easy read with a smart, witty, well-written environment. I recommend this book! It is a book that I will always keep & read again and again over the years. Hope you love it as much as I did.
Few writers have the ability to deliver novels that are intelligent and literary--with gorgeous prose and well-drawn characters--while offering enough plot and humor to keep the pages turning. Richard Russo comes to mind. John Irving, too. Then, of course, there's Susan Isaacs. In this novel, she follows smart, funny Amy Lincoln through the travails of a romantic break-up, professional angst and uncovering the truth about her mysterious background. As always, Isaacs takes us on a journey of discovery that's more fun than a rollercoaster. I highly recommend this book to readers eager for intelligent entertainment.
I have read all of Susan Isaacs' novels, and two are on my all time favorite list. This book will not be joining that list. There were more adjectives than plot development; for example, we know exactly what Amy's boss looks and smells like, but I never quite caught on why Amy is in fear of being fired. The meeting with her mother was, as one of the reviews indicates, disappointing, and the many of the characters were either annoying or uninteresting. I wanted to like this book, and kept waiting...and waiting.
A glance at the title of Susan Isaacs's latest and one thinks, 'Is home' - 'Any place I hang my hat is home.....' Clever title as in this case heroine Amy Lincoln isn't quite sure where her home is. Her mother abandoned her when she was but a baby, and she was raised by streetwise Grandma Lil who made their living by doing leg waxes, and picking up a few things (literally) on the side. Despite childhood in a less than advantaged neighborhood Amy has pulled herself up and out. With the aid of a sympathetic social worker she received a scholarship to a prestigious elitist school. From there it was on to Harvard and a job at 'In Depth,' an ultra serious and dull weekly. Broadway, film and TV actress Jane Adams gives rich voice to the spunky Amy, whether she's observing privileged classmates, visiting jail for a chat with her dad, or searching within herself to discover where she really belongs. It's a journey to self-discovery that Amy makes and Jane Adams is a superior guide. When Amy is assigned to cover a political fund raiser she feels empathy for a young Hispanic, Freddy Carrasco, who barges in to announce that he's the illegitimate son of the candidate. As she befriends Freddy she also begins a search for her own mother. 'How the hell can anyone not have any feeling or even curiosity about a human being he (or she) was responsible for giving life to?' That's the central question for both Amy and Freddy. In true Isaacs style a question is raised for all of us - who actually is family and in this wide, wide world where do we belong? Listen, laugh, be moved, and thoroughly enjoy. - Gail Cooke
Susan Isaacs has written the story of a newswoman abandoned as an infant to the care of her grandmother and her father when he is not in jail. She is seeking to locate her mother not for love but for information as to her genes. This is not one of Susan Isaacs better novels. I have previously enjoyed her novels especially 'Red, White and Blue', 'Compromising Positions' and others. This book seemed disjointed and shallow. I had difficulty identifying with some of the characters notably Tatty. I was concerned that in the process of finding her mother, the heroine missed the first obvious step of obtaining her birth certificate which should have been easily obtainable, more so than her parents marriage license in Maryland!