Anywhere But Here
by Mona Simpson

"The two women in this book are American originals. Ann is a new Huck Finn, a tough, funny, resourceful love of a girl. Adele is like no one I've encountered, at once deplorable and admirable--and altogether believable." --Walker Percy

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  • About the Book

    "Brilliant, funny, astonishing." --The New York Times Book Review

    "Stunning. . . . Simpson takes on--and reinvents--many of America's essential myths." --Michiko Kakutain, The New York Times

    "Anywhere But Here is a wonder: big, complex, masterfully written, it's an achievement that lands [Simpson] in the front ranks of our best novelists." --Newsweek

    Mona Simpson's ambitious first novel Anywhere But Here became a national bestseller upon its publication in 1987. It traces the difficult childhood and coming-of-age of Ann August, the daughter of a woman whose quest for the American dream moves the two of them from Wisconsin to California and from one odd situation to another, with Ann at the mercy of her mother's strange whims. Ann has inherited the rich black hair of her Egyptian father, who left when she was little. Her mother, Adele, insists it is her hair that makes her special--"cuter than Buffy" on A Family Affair--and that might make her a successful child television star. One day Adele decides to leave her second husband, Ted, and taking his Lincoln Continental and his gasoline credit card, she sets off with ten-year-old Ann for Los Angeles.

    Ann is an unusually attentive and observant child who reflects ruefully on the life she leads with her mother. Left behind in Wisconsin are the two people Ann loves best in the world: her grandmother Lillian and her cousin Benny. Adele is at the center of Ann's troubles: always hoping to get rich, to get married again, to have a more comfortable life, she takes an apartment in Beverly Hills that she cannot afford to furnish. Here they try to appear normal among the rich and fashionable while Adele dates wealthy men, spends too much on clothes, fails to pay the bills, and bounces checks. Lending depth and context to the story of Adele and Ann are narratives by Adele's mother, Lillian, and her sister Carol.

    Adele and Ann are unique and powerful characters, fully created, who linger long in the reader's mind. Mona Simpson says about Anywhere But Here, "The book is about roots and the people who went west and tried to get more from life, because that seems to me the story of life in America.... Adele is unstable, but troubled by American troubles: by the striving for gentility, the striving for a higher station. I wanted her dreams to be what got her into trouble." (Contemporary Literary Criticism, vol. 44, p. 97)

    About the Author

    "Mona Simpson writes with confidence, with a swagger. She is already a master." --Anne Tyler, USA Today

    Mona Simpson was born in Green Bay, Wisconsin, in 1957; when she was ten, her parents separated and she moved with her mother to California. Although this detail of her life story is similar to that which makes up the core situation of Anywhere But Here, Simpson tends to be reticent about the extent to which her fiction borrows from the details of her life. She has said, "What I'd finally say about truth and autobiography is that all writers are probably trying to get at some core truth of life, at some configuration that is enduring and truthful. I just haven't found the truth to be my vehicle." (Interview with Jordan Bing, Publishers Weekly, 4 November 1996, p. 51)

    After getting her B.A. in creative writing at Berkeley, she did an M.F.A. at Columbia, where she began work on Anywhere But Here. Upon finishing her M.F.A. she worked for several years as an editor at the Paris Review. Since the enormous success of Anywhere But Here, Simpson has written The Lost Father v and A Regular Guy, which have contributed further to her impressive critical reputation. She was named one of Granta's Best Young American Novelists and has won several prestigious awards, including the Whiting Writer's Award, a Guggenheim grant, the Hodder Fellowship at Princeton University, and a grant from the Lila WallaceĞReader's Digest Foundation. Since 1988 she has taught at Bard College, where she is the Sadie Samuelson Levy Professor of Languages and Literature. She lives with her husband and son in New York City and in Santa Monica, California.

    About the Film

    Now a major motion picture from Twentieth Century Fox, starring Susan Sarandon and Natalie Portman. In theaters November 12, 1999.



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