Anywhere But Here

Mona Simpson

“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.”
Mona Simpson, Anywhere But Here

Anywhere But Here

by Mona Simpson is a story about three generations of women. The book focuses on the lives of middle class women in the twentieth century. The main characters are Lillian (the grandmother), Adele (Lillian’s daughter), and Ann (Adele’s daughter). Recurring themes illustrate the differences and similarities between the three generations of women. The story weaves between past and present as the three women share their stories.

Lillian, who comes of an age in the 1920’s, marries the first man whom she has an intimate relationship with and does not marry after her husband’s death. Adele marries twice during the 1960’s and has several boyfriends in San Francisco. Whatever the social circumstances, the novel suggests, the issues of love and sex are complicated and painful ones. For Ann, sexual identity is a problem. Several upsetting episodes from childhood still trouble her as she hesitantly explores her physical desires during her high school years. After leaving California, Ann describes a rewarding romantic relationship. She is learning to experience love without the fear of destruction.


portrays herself as a victim of Adele’s insanity. Traumatic events have conditioned Ann to fear the very thing that would relieve, her separating from her mother. This love/hate relationship creates many emotional problems for Ann at a very young age. She acts out by exhibiting signs of sexual confusion, manipulating other children into posing for nude photographs, and by developing a moral uncertainty, growing accustomed to dishonesty, and even theft, as a survival mechanism.


is capable of both compassion and cruelty. She is an unpredictable force that can suddenly change the lives of those around her. Her energy drives the novel. Although her chaotic younger years cause Ann to suffer humiliation and disappointments, the reader is given a different impression of Adele in the book’s last chapter. After Ann returns from years of living on her own, she is finally able to share a tender moment with her mother. Adele has also repaired the self-esteem she had lacked in the days when, of when her daughter was young, it was Adele who seemed the neediest and most childlike.

The mother/daughter relationship between Ann and Adele is not conventional. Adele frames her decision to move to California by stating they are moving because she has her daughter's best interests in mind. While in reality, Adele wants to movie to California to fulfill her own selfish desires. This situation displays one instance why Ann and Adele have an unconventional mother/daughter relationship, mothers are generally seen as sacrificial which Adele is not. Anywhere But Here is interesting because the mother is the childlike character in the story, and it is only in the absence of her daughter that Adele matures.
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