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Any Place I Hang My Hat
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Any Place I Hang My Hat

3.6 9
by Susan Isaacs

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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


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.

Editorial Reviews

Maureen Corrigan
Any Place I Hang My Hat testifies to the importance of family in an uncertain, sometimes terrifying world. Refreshingly, the novel expands its understanding of family to include those bound together by affinity as well as blood.
The Washington Post
Publishers Weekly
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. Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
Best-selling author Isaacs sets her latest novel (after Long Time, No See) in her native New York City, where political reporter Amy Lincoln searches for emotional fulfillment. At a campaign party for Democratic presidential candidate Thom Bowles, Amy witnesses a young Hispanic man being taken away following his declaration that he is Thom's son. His bold attempt prompts Amy to reexamine her life and her ability to find contentment; she wonders why her mother abandoned her as a baby and whether she will ever be able to settle down with her boyfriend of two years. Amy's workaholic routine and tendency to overanalyze her rocky past counter her desperate need to find closeness and comfort. Her discussions with her socialite friend, Tatty, and the traumatic end of her relationship eventually lead to a purposeful and potentially life-changing search for her mother. Isaacs's luscious descriptions draw out each character's personality and unique contribution to Amy's journey of self-healing. Recommended for all public libraries. [See Prepub Alert, LJ 6/1/04.] Laura M. Wight, South Dakota State Univ. Lib., Brookings Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Superselling Isaacs (Long Time No See, 2001, etc.) makes a valiant effort to reach a younger readership and still please the faithful in her tale of a New Yorker looking for her long-lost mother. Amy Lincoln has issues-big time. Raised by her shoplifting grandma Lil while her father, a petty crook named Chicky, was doing time, she never knew her mother, Phyllis. Where is Phyllis now? Amy never had the time to figure that out, what with going to Harvard and Columbia School of Journalism. Now working for Happy Bob, a liberal slave-driver at In Depth, a newsmagazine that takes its mission seriously, Amy's gotten pretty good at finding out stuff people don't want her to know. Does a charismatic political candidate who seems to be on the side of the angels have an illegitimate son by a woman of color? Looks like it, and that assignment gets her to thinking about her own mother. Surely a little routine investigation will turn up a few clues, starting with the names of her maternal grandparents: prosperous Brooklyn businessman Selwyn Moscowitz and wife Rose. Are they dead or alive or living in Florida? Boca Raton, here I come. Along the way, Amy dithers inexplicably about whether to commit to an absolutely perfect guy who would lay down his life for her (the weakest part of the story) and reminisces about her eccentric upbringing, such as it was, by her crazy-like-a-fox grandmother and the endearingly raffish Chicky (the funniest and best part of the story). Amy's discovery of her other grandmother, a Waspy society matron, results in a face-to-face meeting that goes amazingly well; her eventual reunion with her reptilian mother does not. A heroine who really, really cares about politics andsocial issues and who always remembers to wear a warm coat is certainly a welcome novelty in this Age of Fluff-but this still seems like chick-lit in sensible shoes. Agent: Owen Laster/William Morris
From the Publisher
"Any new Susan Isaacs book is a cause for celebration, and this adroit, witty, warm-hearted novel, with a heroine you'll cheer for until the final page, is an absolute treat."
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.

Brief Biography

Sands Point, New York
Date of Birth:
December 7, 1943
Place of Birth:
Brooklyn, New York
Honorary Doctorate, Queens College

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Any Place I Hang My Hat 3.7 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 9 reviews.
AUDREY4900 More than 1 year ago
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.
Guest More than 1 year ago
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.
Guest More than 1 year ago
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.
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Guest More than 1 year ago
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.
Guest More than 1 year ago
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
Guest More than 1 year ago
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!