It’s not that Susan Isaacs’s Any Place I Hang My Hat isn’t a good book. It is, in fact, very good. Hat centers on the journey of self-discovery taken by Amy Lincoln, a now-grown woman whose mother abandoned her as a child. Raised by her misguided but loving ex-con dad and superficial but honorable grandma, Amy turns out to be smart and successful – a Harvard grad with an impressive job at a high-toned weekly magazine. But, of course, her tough childhood has left her unable to trust anyone or to form deep, lasting relationships.
Thus Amy, nursing an unexpectedly broken heart following the demise of her long-term relationship with her boyfriend, tracks down her roots. This is all entertaining, and Amy is clearly an endearing protagonist. Hat is, as I said, a good book. It’s just not terribly original. The absent parent, the loving but unstable one, the loyal if seemingly pompous best friend – they’ve all become staples of modern fiction aimed at women. The characters, even when done in amusing way, seem clichéd and wooden. The story also feels a bit worn. The “missing mother” story in this book isn’t nearly as surprising and moving as, say the “missing grandmother” story in Jennifer Weiner’s superior In Her Shoes.
Yet, if Isaacs’ book isn’t original, it is readable, and there are some refreshing characters. Amy’s co-worker Gloria, written as a smart, ambitious intellectual, never
falls into the literary trap of the “cutthroat career woman.” Instead, she’s something more realistic – an honest woman who
is not afraid to be ambitious but isn’t an inhuman monster. Overall, Hat is enjoyable and, if not entirely fresh, at least it is familiar in a comforting way.