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Anywhere But Here

by Mona Simpson
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Product Details

  • Publisher: Atlantic Books
  • Publishing date: 02/09/2004
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-13: 9781843542162
  • ISBN: 1843542161

Synopsis

"Strangers always love my mother," Ann August tells us at the start of Anywhere But Here. "And even if you hate her, can't stand her, even if she's ruining your life, there's something about her, some romance, some power. She's absolutely herself. No matter how hard you try, you'll never get to her. And when she dies, the world will be flat, too simple, reasonable, fair." Indeed, over the course of the dozen or so years chronicled in Mona Simpson's first novel, Ann and everyone else related to the charming, delusional Adele learn this the hard way. Ann does hate her at times; Adele does indeed come pretty close to ruining Ann's life on numerous occasions, or at least scarring it, and yet, ultimately, it isn't possible not to love her. As Ann puts it: "The thing about my mother and me is that when we get along we're just the same."

This is a woman who uproots her child from Wisconsin and moves to Los Angeles, leaving behind a dull husband (not Ann's father--who wandered off long ago but makes appearances here in memories), under the premise that life will be beautiful and Ann will become a famous television star. But her lifelong dream and goal ("It was our secret, a nighttime whispered promise" turns out, like so many things in the Augusts' lives, to be lackluster when it becomes reality. Adele merely feeds on fantasy and drags her daughter along.

Nevertheless, it's hard not to worship her. We hear from her mother, her sister, from Ann, and finally from Adele herself, and no matter how she's used people, what trouble she's gotten into, or what lies she's told--and there are plenty of all three--a certain amount of awe always remains. When we come upon Ann's proclamation that "it's always the people like my mother, who start the noise and bang things, who make you feel the worst; they are the ones who get your love." It's startling to realize how heartily we agree with her. Anywhere But Here gives truth to this statement in a way that few books ever have. It's dense with misery and amazement all tangled together--a realistic and thus rare portrait of love. --Melanie Rehak


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  • The ordinary becomes extraordinary
    From Amazon

    I was surprised at the degree to which I liked this book, as it's full of mostly unlikable characters (with the possible exception of the Wisconsin grandma). The main characters are the child Ann and her beautiful, scheming, narcissistic mother Adele who's constantly putting on airs that she is rich and posh, and trying to land a man who can pay her way. Adele's behavior ranges from the annoying (such as buying houses and cars she obviously can't afford) to the delusional (stalking a boyfriend who's lost interest in her) to the downright dysfunctional (emotionally abusing and sexually exploiting her daughter). It's a tribute to the author's writing skills that she manages to make the story of such a character readable and even a little sympathetic. This is accomplished partly through telling most of Adele's story through Ann and Adele's other family members, all of whom can't help but love Adele a little bit even when they can't abide her behavior. The book doesn't have much of a coherent plot, but instead is told as a series of vignettes that skip around in time and present episodes from Ann and Adele's life, occasionally peeking into the lives of other family members such as Ann's grandma and aunt. Because much of Adele's story is told from the perspective of the child Ann, there's not a lot of psychological interpretation grafted on, and the reader is left to draw their own conclusions about Adele's motivations and feelings, which in turn play out in Ann's own behavior. At several points in the book Ann's life seems to be emulating her mother's without the author coming right out and hitting you over the head with the comparison. The fact that such parallels are left to the reader to draw makes the book more interesting. The story begins in Wisconsin, where Adele longs for a better and more exciting life. After two failed marriages, Adele decides it's time that she and young Ann move to Hollywood so Ann "can become a child star while still a child." Once in Los Angeles and away from her Wisconsin support network, Adele's behavior becomes even more erratic, as she chases after men, spends money she doesn't have, skips out on the rent, and constantly tries to cozy up to rich and famous people who don't want her around. Like her grandmother and aunt, Ann excuses her mother's excesses for years, but finally takes steps to get away realizing it's necessary for her own emotional and perhaps physical survival. The story is told from a female perspective throughout, and most of the pleasure in the reading is the author's descriptive, yet terse, writing style. At one point the author covers literally years of Ann's life, after she has finally gotten away from her mother, in a few short descriptive paragraphs which work surprisingly well. I would recommend this book with the caveat that some people might not enjoy reading about a "bad mother" who seemingly "gets away with it" with no lasting ill effects to anyone involved. There's no big redemption at the end, only one unexpected surprise twist of the "people aren't always what they seem" variety.

  • An Unusual Love Between Mother and Daughter Cemented Eternally
    From Amazon

    This is a wonderful novel. It is about the relationship between a mother and daughter -Adele and Ann. They journey together to California, to a life Adele is seeking but can never attain. She can never attain what she is seeking partly because she is unable to accept what she has, partly due to not recognizing what it is she is and is seeking, and partly due to her crazy longing for a self and way of life that is not embedded in reality. Adele is crazy, cruel, self-centered , almost sociopathic, yet she has a uniqueness and childlike quality that is almost endearing. ann has her mother's tendencies, but at the same time, the ability to recognize this and want to change herself and escape from her demons while there is still time. The reader views the gradual and almost total disintegration of the last vestiges of Adele's stability. Adele takes Ann to California so that Ann can become a child star and yet, when Ann actually is able to make it, Adele tries to destroy this possibility. We watch Adele's zany and crazy actions - letting Ann off in the middle of highways, becoming obsessed with her psychiatrist (pretending he's marrying her), her lies, her cheating, and her deceit. There is a telling paragraph - just a few lines - that let us know how Adele had Ann pose for pornographic photos when she was a young child. However, it's a short paragraph, of no tremendous significance in light of the reality of Adele and Ann's relationship. Taken alone, it might be abhorrent. In context, it's merely sad. Their relationship is cemented. Despite love, hate, anger, and all the other emotions that come into play, the reality is their eternal bond - the arc of continuity even in separation and isolation. The enduring quality of love and the cement of family and relationships is the zeitgeist of this book. And it is a wonderful book indeed. Simpson can describe the ordinary in a visually poetic and profound way. Her imagery is new and jolts the reader with its visual beauty and power.

  • I LOVED this book. POIGNANT
    From Amazon

    Beautifully written, great character descriptions and moving. I really loved this book -- it's a true GEM. I will look to buy Mona Simplson's other books.

  • Great read.....no disappointments here!
    From Amazon

    I thought this was a very entertaining book. It kept my interest, but it wasn't all the fantasy/la-la land good-feeling typical book. Nothing happens that you expect. It's not a story that you would have thought up, it just has to be someone writing about their life (or so it seems.) I did just finish watching the movie, and I do have to say I was a little disappointed. I thought it was a cute movie, but the book is soooooooo much better. Ms. Simpson touches on so many more aspects to the character's lives than the movie. It doesn't even come close to getting behind the characters. I would recommend this book for anyone that is tired of the sappy love/feel good/happy ending books.

  • A book you can reread endlessly and still find new perspectives..
    From Amazon

    Like many other adolescents, Ann August is torn between loving and hating her mother. For Adele August refuses to be ordinary...the thing that her young daughter longs for most. The two embark on a road trip to California, where Ann is to become famous. Really, she is just a pawn for her mother's fantasies. The story flashes back and forth between present-day and the past, interspersing Ann's perspective with that of her mother, grandmother and aunt. This is truly Simpson's finest work.

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