21 of 22 people found the following review helpful
- Published on Amazon.com
.....since author Susan Isaacs penned her "Compromising Positions" yarn about a middle-aged suburban housewife. In THAT book, which may seem ordinary today, Isaacs broke
a lot of rules. She wrote about the suburban mom vs. working woman in a manner that poked fun at both. She let her heroine have an adulterous fling, and, somehow, it seemed
all right in a day and age when the sexual revolution was just something hippies were involved in. Over the years, in nine novels (ten, now!) Isaacs has given me much pleasure and literally has me stop and say more than once throughout each book-"that's happened to me...". My personal favorite of Isaac's novels is "After All These Years", but, then, I never met an Isaacs novel I didn't love.
I credit Susan Isaacs with starting the "chick lit" era, and she is a master. Her novels don't just make light of women facing issues, they generally are themed for a woman who is just discovering a whole lot about herself that she never knew. "Any Place I Hang My Hat" is no exception, although the heroine, Amy Lincoln (a 30-something Jewish-Italian New Yorker from the slums, with a missing mother who walked off and left her and a father ("Chicky") who has lived a life incarcerated, on and off)doesn't realize right away that she's destined to try to find her true self.
Naturally, Amy's used her wits and her knack for hard work and fitting in to go first to an exclusive boarding school, all expenses paid, then on to Harvard and Columbia to study journalism. She's a political writer for "In Depth" - a quality magazine with an educated following, and she's been involved for more than two years with a documentary
filmmaker, John Orenstein. She's got a longer relationship, for a decade and a half, with rich, exotic Tatty, her best
friend. The two met in boarding school when Tatty insulted her and Amy retaliated by punching her in the mouth. Tatty naturally does not have to work for a living, but chose a career in gourmet occasion cake making, after her two marriages failed. Isaacs normally draws me in with a more middle-aged heroine, but in the brilliant little journey that Amy makes to find herself in the novel, we quickly learn that she has an old soul.
Involved in the early part of the Democratic run for a presidential candidate, with a clever mix of real and imagined candidates, Amy's struck by the parallel between a young Hispanic man who crashes a fund-raiser, claiming the blueblooded Senator who is running for office is his father. Amy's own life has been lived trying not to speculate on why and how her mother, Phyllis, left her in the care of crazy Grandma Lil and jailbird Chicky. Phyllis never once looked back, and Amy has to decide - does she want to find Phyllis and find the answers to all those questions or is it just safer to leave the genie in the bottle?
Interspersed with the quest for her identity are the often humorous anecdotes of Amy's struggle with editorial control at the magazine, and her on and off again romance
with John. Warning: there is a broken heart that really leaves you feeling bereft in this novel.
In the concluding chapters, I will admit to tears, because Isaacs truly engaged me in her character, and never went over-the-top for her laughs. Indeed, Isaacs practices wit more than humor, romance more than sexual heat, and contemporary writing more than groundbreaking plotting. Reviewing the above, you may yawn and think it's just another plot that's been done before, but you haven't counted on Isaacs' style and way with a phrase or a concept. Here she has Amy assess her life:
"I could fit in anywhere: With all the kids on the bus going upstate to visit their fathers in prison. With all the Ivey girls and the guys they hung with. In a government seminar at Harvard. Drinking with the Democratic powers-that-be in Chicago. Except when you could theoretically live a thousand different lives, how do you pick the one where you belong?"
Join Isaacs and Amy for a journey of discovery, and enjoy the wit, charm, warmth, and ultimately and unfortunately, the end of a smart new novel. Isaacs only averages
one novel every 2.5 years. That's way too few with too much space between them, for my taste. Thus, I pay full price whenever I see she's got a new one on the shelves....believe me, "Any Place I Hang My Hat", was worth every penny!
9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
- Published on Amazon.com
This was a very compelling and intelligent read that I would recommend to anyone who would enjoy an intelligent tale of a woman's personal growth. (I received this book as a Christmas present, and I am so grateful that someone finally understood my tastes in reading material!)
Amy's story is memorable -- she was abandoned by her mother as an infant, and raised by her delusioned, neglectful paternal grandmother, and by her father, when he was not in jail. She sees school and education as an escape, and when she has the chance, she accepts a scholarship at an elite boarding school. From there, she attends Harvard and Columbia school of journalism, and gets a job as a writer for a serious news magazine. Her travels through the different social levels of urban New York, from the projects to prisons to political circles to elite boarding schools, result in really striking and thought provoking commentary. (I didn't agree with every thing that Amy or the other characters said, and, happily, it didn't appear that Issacs was offering a lecture.) At the same time, the story is accessibly comtemporary, making frequent reference to recent world events and popular culture in a way that grounds the story in a particular time and place and gives the impression that Amy is not so devoted to politics and CSPAN that she has never watched reality TV.
Susan Issac creates a intelligent, self-sufficient, yet vulnerable character and neither Issacs not her character seems inclined to understimate the intelligence of the reader. Amy is charming, smart (reading four or five newspapers a day with a keen interest in politics and current events) and interested in what is going on in the world around her. In order to grasp and appreciate some of Amy's wit and social criticism, the reader is expected to be a smart, well-aware person as well. Amy Lincoln is a truly memorable literary character, incredibly thoughtful, observant, honest, witty, and vulnerable.
One of my favorite scenes is one where Amy falls in her apartment (she later learns that she had broken three ribs) and she is unable to get up off the floor. She is in pain, and worried that she had really hurt herself. She wants to call someone and ask for help, but is afraid that no one would be interested enough to come and help her. She does call an aquaintance, lying on her back on the floor, but she is unable to bring herself to tell him what has happened to her. When she can't keep him on the phone any longer, she makes her way to her bedroom, and in the morning takes herself to an emergency room. The quiet, resigned way in which she deals with her aloneness is heartbreaking and impressive at the same time. Though scared, Amy never seems depressed. I hope that this book gets the attention it deserves.
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
Dr. Cathy Goodwin
- Published on Amazon.com
Since she burst onto the mystery scene with Compromising Positions, Susan Isaacs has created plots featuring strong heroines who find page-turning conflict in the most mundane worlds.
Here she steps away from the suburbs into slightly edgier territory. Amy Lincoln, a mature 29-year-old political writer, has risen from a beyond-dysfunctional home in the projects. Following a scholarship to a select prep school, she fought her way into Harvard and then Columbia Journalism School.
And now she's feeling stranded. Her too-good-to-be-true boyfriend doesn't seem to be moving to marriage. Her best friend is between marriages. Her father, released from prison for the third time, won't introduce her to his new girlfriend; after all, he's been passing for 36.
It's not clear what pushes Amy to start asking questions about her past after all this time. Maybe she is inspired by a young man who crashes a senator's reception, claiming to be a long lost son. For some reason, she gets her father to talk about her long-lost mother, then uses her reportorial skills to track down the missing family.
As Amy explores her roots, we're treated to a detailed description of just about everyone she meets -- even people who just walk onstage for a few pages. These detours add color to the novel and I for one didn't mind slowing down.
The climactic scene pulls the book together, striking just the right note. We realize how cruelly Amy's mother set events in motion that harmed everyone she knew: her own parents, Amy's father and ultimately Amy herself. True, Amy went to good schools, but there's a hint of scar tissue when she deals with past and present relationships.
Sometimes Amy seems extremely mature for a 29-year-old; after all, the author's quite a bit older. She's been through a lot, though, so her character is plausible. Her romantic life is a little more far-fetched, and the ending seems to doom the book to the "women/romance" category.
Overall, though, I enjoyed this book. I get tired of whiny, helpless heroines who can't seem to take charge of their lives, so I found myself liking Amy's strength and her willingness to accept the consequences of her own actions.
12 of 14 people found the following review helpful
- Published on Amazon.com
Susan Isaacs usually offers a fast but entertaining read, with astute commentary mixed with tales of social climbing and coupling. This book flops, though. The writing is turgid. The plot is uninteresting. The characters never come to life and are not believable. Isaacs' own social climbing and insecurities are fully on view.
In this novel, Isaacs' protagonist was plucked from a housing project and selected for an elite boarding school based on her brains. She then went to Harvard. When the novel opens, she is a journalist for a serious political magazine. Nothing this woman says or does shows any sign of intellect. I could not picture her as a respected political writer, or as she herself puts it, "a better-than-competent journalist and political analyst" (p.301). The reader would need to be shown these skills. Believe me, we aren't.
The protagonist's father, Chicky, a felon with a heart of gold, is equally implausible. Freddy, an alleged resident of the barrio, talks in an absurd manner. What Latino teenager says so-and-so "has been conferencing with my father's lawyer"?
I also was put off by Isaacs' ethnic chauvinism. A previous reviewer mentioned how this played out in terms of Mid East politics. I also observed it in the protagonist's many put downs of WASPS. It's OK to make fun of others, in a light-hearted way, but this had a mean-spirited quality, including discussion of how a blue-eyed man could not be attractive to the protagonist. Really? The color of a person's eyes is decisive in this regard?
This book is poorly put together, badly plotted, and without true character development. It's not even funny. The main character is annoying and narcissistic. If I had to guess how this book came about, I would say that Isaacs got so big in the sales department that her publisher let her venture forth with this, without the editing that's probably saved her in the past.
9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
Michael K. Smith
- Published on Amazon.com
Issacs's novels aren't mere replays of one another. The protagonist of each is a woman, but they're not "women's novels" -- or not merely that, anyway. This one isn't a mystery, as some of her best have been, but it's certainly suspenseful. Thirty-year-old Amy Lincoln ("no relation") is a more-than-competent New York political analyst and journalist at IN DEPTH, a magazine so serious it doesn't run pictures at all. Despite her degrees from Harvard and Columbia School of Journalism, she grew up in the projects, the daughter of a mostly likeable but only semi-successful small-time criminal and a mother who disappeared when she was a few months old, dumping her in the reluctant lap of her Grandma Lil, a part-time leg-waxer. Her background left her with a rather confrontational style and very chary of commitment in relationships, even though for two years she's been with the pretty much terrific John Orenstein, a documentary film maker who pushes all her passion buttons but with whom she is convinced she ought to break up. But all that is just the background to this multilayered story. While covering a private money-raiser by a presidential candidate, she witnesses a young, personable gate-crasher's claim to be the senator's illegitimate son. As she gets involved, against her better ethical judgment, with his quest for acceptance, she comes to the realization that she must also uncover the truth about her own mother and the theft of a diamond ring that sent her father to jail for the first time. She's an expert researcher and (speaking as someone in a similar line of work) I found the process fascinating. But Amy's search is only the means to discovering who she is, whether she's really her mother's daughter in terms of bent psychology, and what to do about John. The story is set, rather pointedly, against the backdrop of the Bush administration's invasion of Iraq, but I'm not sure I see the relevance. And there are also frequent flashback references to the events of September 11, as is probably inevitable for any future novel set in present-day New York City, but at least they play some part in the characters' personal lives. This certainly isn't a "funny" book, but Isaacs's dry wit and droll capsule descriptions add a leavening of humor that keeps things on an even keel. And her spot-on depictions of the supporting characters are marvelous. Every novel this author writes is better than the one before.