Amy was barely born with a spoon in her mouth let alone a silver one. Her mother abandoned her before her first birthday and her father, a small-time crook, was in jail more time than he was out. Raised by her flaky and slightly felonious grandmother, Amy worked hard and managed to get scholarships to boarding school, then Harvard, then the Columbia School of Journalism. But now -- a few years into her stint as a reporter for a prestigious magazine -- she doesn't know who she is or how to connect with the world. Seeking answers, she sets out to find the mother she never knew...and maybe a place to belong.
1. It has been nearly three decades since Amy's mother left her with Grandma Lil. What is it about Freddy Carrasco's story that makes Amy seriously consider looking for her mother after all this time? Why does she go out of her way to help Freddy, even referring him to a lawyer? 2. Amy spent her childhood in a low-income housing project, and in her teens she attended an elite private boarding school. How has each of these experiences contributed to shaping who she is? Has being a part of these two very different social classes actually been an asset to her? 3. What makes Amy and Tatty's friendship so strong? They are different in many ways-both in lifestyle and personality-but is there anything they have in common? 4. In one instance Amy reveals, "For the five thousandth time in my career I wished that instead of being a writer at In Depth, I could be something else, something with emotion" (pg 190). Why do you suppose Amy chose a career as a journalist? Does it have anything to do with its emphasis on fact and not on emotion, as she seems to indicate? How important is professional achievement to Amy? 5. As a reporter, part of Amy's job is to interview, evaluate, and observe other people and then depict them accurately in print. How does Amy see herself? How do others see her, including Tatty, John, Gloria, Chicky, Rose, and Aunt Linda? Compare Amy's public persona with the private person. 6. "I was quite young, sixteen or so, when I decided I wanted a child no matter what. Even back then, I understood I might not be anyone's idea of a prize in the marriage sweepstakes. So husband or no, I would have a baby. Be in a family" (pg 84). Are you surprised that Amy wants a child of her own? Why or why not? What do you think of her motivations for wanting a child? How does she reconcile her desire for a family with her fear that she might abandon her child, as her mother did? 7. How would you describe Amy's meeting with Rose? Did anything about their visit surprise you? What similarities do Amy and Rose share? 8. Tatty says to Amy, "Compare [Rose] to Grandma Lil and ChickyŠ. Lil was responsible. She probably even loved you in her own self-centered, clueless way. Even if she didn't, she did what was right. She stuck by you. And look at Chicky. He got out of jail and what was the first thing he did? Took care of youŠ. Both of them had good character" (pg 233). What does Amy come to realize about Grandma Lil that she might have misjudged? How about Chicky? 9. How come it took Amy until her 29th year to begin the search for her mother? 10. The first thing Véronique says to Amy when she sees her in the parking lot is, "Get away from me!" What does this reaction to Amy's appearance say about Véronique? When they sit down to talk, how does she justify leaving Amy? Do you have any feelings of empathy for Véronique? 11. Did Amy's conversation with her mother unfold as you expected it would? Why or why not? Does it unfold as Amy thought it would? Does Amy's conversation with her mother give her the closure she seeks? 12. In the beginning of the story Amy is intending to break off her relationship with John. What makes her realize that he is the man she wants to spend the rest of her life with? Do you think she and John are right for each other? Are the ups and downs Susan Isaacs portrays in their relationship realistic? 13. Who is more responsible for their breakup, Amy or John? 14. Susan Isaacs has said that "dialogue has always been the easiest for me. I hear it whether they're a fishwife in Brooklyn or like Tatty." What do you think about the dialogue in this book? Is this where the characters show their characters? Is it what makes the book vivid and lively? 15. Amy could easily have lived the life of "victim." What is there in her character and background that make her so resilient? 16. What does Amy learn about family during her search for her mother? Along the way, how do her relationships with the people around her change? What is the greatest change that happens to Amy? In the end, does she find a place to hang her hat?
Susan Isaacs is the author of thirteen novels, including As Husbands Go, Any Place I Hang My Hat, Long Time No See, and Compromising Positions. She is a former editor of Seventeen and a freelance political speechwriter. She lives on Long Island with her husband. All of her novels have been New York Times bestsellers.