Any Place I Hang My Hat

Any Place I Hang My Hat

3.6 9
by Susan Isaacs

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Amy was barely born with a spoon in her mouth let alone a silver one. Her mother abandoned her before her first birthday and her father, a small-time crook, was in jail more time than he was out. Raised by her flaky and slightly felonious grandmother, Amy worked hard and managed to get scholarships to boarding school, then Harvard, then the Columbia School of

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Amy was barely born with a spoon in her mouth let alone a silver one. Her mother abandoned her before her first birthday and her father, a small-time crook, was in jail more time than he was out. Raised by her flaky and slightly felonious grandmother, Amy worked hard and managed to get scholarships to boarding school, then Harvard, then the Columbia School of Journalism. But now — a few years into her stint as a reporter for a prestigious magazine — she doesn't know who she is or how to connect with the world. Seeking answers, she sets out to find the mother she never knew...and maybe a place to belong.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"A book with substance and a big heart."
The Seattle Times

"Nobody does smart, gutsy, funny, sexy women better than Susan Isaacs.... A merrily observant, moving, and — as always with Isaacs — very entertaining novel."
The Washington Post

"A witty, warm-hearted novel, with a heroine you'll cheer for until the final absolute treat."
— Jennifer Weiner, author of Goodnight Nobody

"Well-written, very funny, and incredible smart."
O, The Oprah Magazine

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

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Product Details

Pocket Star
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6.80(w) x 4.30(h) x 1.00(d)

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.

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