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Anywhere but Here (Vintage Contemporaries) [Kindle Edition]

Mona Simpson
3.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (86 customer reviews)

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Sold by: Random House LLC

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Book Description

Anywhere But Here is a moving, often comic portrait of wise child Ann August and her mother, Adele, a larger-than-life American dreamer. As they travel through the landscape of their often conflicting ambitions, Ann and Adele bring to life a novel that is a brilliant exploration of the perennial urge to keep moving, even at the risk of profound disorientation. Simpson's first novel is ultimately a heart-rendering tale of a mother and daughter's invaluable relationship.

"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

"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."

From the Trade Paperback edition.

Editorial Reviews Review

"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

From Publishers Weekly

Ann, the narrator of this engaging look at mother-daughter relationships, is uprooted from Bay City, Wis., by her mother, Adele, so that she can become a child star in Los Angeles. PW praised Simpson for her "grasp of human relationships and sheer readability."
Copyright 1987 Reed Business Information, Inc.

Product Details

  • File Size: 748 KB
  • Print Length: 546 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: 0679737383
  • Publisher: Vintage; Reissue edition (May 25, 2011)
  • Sold by: Random House LLC
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B004WY3VGK
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Enabled
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #408,165 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
45 of 48 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Loved it, but not for everyone November 26, 2001
By A Customer
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I was fascinated by this book, but it's not for everybody. Anywhere But Here is a meandering portrait of a family, told from the point of view of three generations of women, with most of the text from the point of view of the youngest, Ann. It is a mosaic of her memories as a child and young adult, caught up in the vortex of her mother's desperate attempts to live the life she dreams of.
I was delighted by her ability to evoke the point of view of a child; I'd often have to pause as some long-forgotten memory came rushing back, triggered by an especially perceptive phrase. She conveys brilliantly the way that adults seem simulatneously completely familiar and entirely alien. For days after reading this, I saw everything in my life through that strange double vision wherein the viewpoint of the book is superimposed on my own.
So basically, I loved it. That said, you might not, especially if you own Precious Moments figurines, believe children are innocents, think that God is looking out for you, or are uncomfortable naked, even when alone. This book is immensely honest, and those who prefer to maintain their illusions should avoid it. Also avoid it if you need action; this book is about human lives, which don't have plots.
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26 of 28 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars There's something here November 1, 1999
There's something very American about this novel. A lot of people probably thought there wasn't much to it, but really when you look at the daily ordinary occurances and tragedies of our lives, they don't always seem so profound. It's when you view them as a sum of their parts that you see the meaning. I've never read a book that painted a life, several lives, so vividly and realistically. I believe in Ann and Adele. The ending is perfect. Adele loved Ann the best that she could, and it was a reckless, selfish, hurtful love, but it was love. Call me crazy but there's something sort of beautiful about that.
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars This IS the Great American Novel - a must read! August 12, 1998
By A Customer
Mona Simpson is America's best hidden literary gem. While she doesn't do herself any favors by allowing such a long time to lapse between her novels, the depth of her work is memorable. Anywhere But Here is a mirror of contemporary American life. Her characters are realistic, strong, and independent, yet are limited by their shortcomings and the strictures of familial obligation. Simpson's greatest skill is her mastery of dialogue. In this novel, her characters reveal so much about themselves through their words, and more through their acts and omissions. A fine read.
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22 of 27 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Disappointing December 2, 2003
By A Customer
I originally picked up this book after hearing it compared to Danzy Senna's superb novel "Caucasia," and found "Anywhere But Here" a huge disappointment. I agree with other reviewers who feel the book should have undergone a massive edit/rewrite before publication. There is some good beginning stuff here; some good raw material and ideas...BUT. "Anywhere But Here" lacks a cohesive plot and the characters are flat and dry. Ann, the daughter -- who narrates the bulk of the book -- is particularly dull and uninteresting. No causes, consequences, or conclusions arise from any of the anecdotes she tells. Instead they read as nothing more than a grocery list of facts: "We sat in the car." "I got a role on a TV show." "I took naked pictures of my classmates." The reader leaves this book hungry, disturbed...and bored. I kept waiting for it to get better, and for something to HAPPEN, but alas, nothing ever did. For a truly great read and an examination of a strange-tense-intriguing mother-daughter relationship, skip this one and try "Caucasia" instead.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Funny, touching and poetic June 29, 1998
By A Customer
I have read every novel of Mona Simpson's with great enjoyment. This one is the best of them all. The Lost Father was an enjoyable read, but it did not grab me. Mona Simpson's descriptions of small town Wisconsin are poetic. I felt and understood the character's urges and feelings. A excellent plane book. I read this on the way to Japan and back. The time went very quickly, with such an absorbing story.
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23 of 30 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars excellent December 2, 2004
Seems like most of the other posters ought to stick to romance novels. Mona Simpson's first book is packed with rich imagery, irresistible storytelling, and vivid characterizations. In particular, Adele is certainly one of the most appalling mother characters in contemporary fiction. Grandiose, manipulative, and narcissistic, she is a monster for the ages. (Despite what the Amazon blurb says, I think it's easy not to fall in love with her.) Simpson has said in interviews that the book isn't autobiographical, but I can't help but wonder. That's how vivid it is.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars I almost missed this one..... November 29, 2010
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Had never read Mona Simpson before reading the wonderful "My Hollywood". I wanted to try another right away and ordered "Anywhere But Here". I can't believe that I missed it when it was new. I have been reading voraciously for many years and this one will have to be worked into my top 5 or 6 of all time favorites. This is what literary fiction is all about. The story of Anne and Adelle is profound. Adelle is unstable...narcissistic and abusive...but she does indeed love her daughter. Many reviewers here comment on Anne's blank personality. This so shows the skill of the author. Adelle is so dysfunctional she clearly sucks all of the oxygen out of every space occupied....clearly Anne's lack of emoting is symptomatic of being abused. She acts out in bouncing off of her mothers illness....but in an understated way that has the reader questioning what just happened. Simpson shows you what is happening instead of telling you. She then gives you family history through other family member's voices.This becomes a finely woven tapestry of a book. Life is not always pretty...not clearly black or white. People and situations are nuanced...and I have seldom seen an author bring it all together as elegantly as this. I understand that there is a sequel. I am off to order it now along with "Off Keck Road". I just finished "Anywhere But Here" a few hours ago....already miss Adelle,Anne and Carol. This will be with me for a long long time.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
1.0 out of 5 stars One Star
Not worth reading.
Published 1 month ago by bev s
2.0 out of 5 stars Like Attending The Wrong Slide Show
In the old days, after a life-enhancing visit to Syria, I proudly showed slides and served falafel to friends. Read more
Published 1 month ago by Carol Ryan
4.0 out of 5 stars Not as good as I'd remembered.....
I had read this book years ago, and remembered it as a sad memoir type of story. It is, but I feel like it lost effect and continuity at times. Read more
Published 2 months ago by Jennifer Fink
4.0 out of 5 stars read the book after the movie
I am still at the begging of the book , but I can say , it reached my expectation ! actually I got to know this book after watching the movie " Anywhere but here" I really... Read more
Published 3 months ago by Ibrahim
1.0 out of 5 stars Too Boring to Finish
The book started off well, with crisp writing, poetic prose, and a dramatic tension between mother and daughter as they made their way across the states. Read more
Published 5 months ago by Angrydoug
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Uniquely imagined and well- written!
Published 5 months ago by Kathy L. Capozzi
5.0 out of 5 stars As advertised
It was delivered as advertised and very quickly
Published 5 months ago by Julie Ruelle
4.0 out of 5 stars Dysfunctional Characters abound
Talk about dysfunctional! This mother was a mess and the poor daughter had no one to model herself after that results in many poor choices.
Published 6 months ago by Marmaduke
1.0 out of 5 stars Disjointed,boring book
Found this to be a scattered, poorly written book. I stuck through to the end but was never so glad to finish a book.
Published 8 months ago by Sharon Machen
5.0 out of 5 stars Poor kid
I loved this book. It made me feel like a good mother. :-). Seriously, I'd never read Mona Simpson before reading the Jobs biography by Walter Isaacson. Read more
Published 11 months ago by JR2289
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More About the Author

Mona Simpson was born in Green Bay, Wisconsin, then moved to Los Angeles as a young teenager. Her father was a recent immigrant from Syria and her mother was the daughter of a mink farmer and the first person in her family to attend college. Simpson went to Berkeley, where she studied poetry. She worked as a journalist before moving to New York to attend Columbia's MFA program. During graduate school, she published her first short stories in Ploughshares, The Iowa Review and Mademoiselle. She stayed in New York and worked as an editor at The Paris Review for five years while finishing her first novel. Anywhere But Here. After that, she wrote The Lost Father, A Regular Guy and Off Keck Road.

Her work has been awarded several prizes: a Whiting Prize, a Guggenheim, a grant from the NEA, a Hodder Fellowship from Princeton University, a Lila Wallace Readers Digest Prize, a Chicago Tribune Heartland Prize, a Pen Faulkner finalist, and most recently a Literature Award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters.

She worked ten years on My Hollywood. "It's the book that took me too long because it meant too much to me," she says.

Mona lives in Santa Monica with her two children and Bartelby the dog.

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