Themes and Meanings

(Masterpieces of American Fiction)

The lives of middle-class American women in the twentieth century is the predominant focus of Anywhere but Here. Recurring themes illustrate the differences and similarities between the three generations of speakers. All the women in the novel discuss their memories of food and, often in connection with food, the appearance of their bodies. Their experiences with sex and partnership illustrate a change in American values. Lillian, who comes of age in the 1920’s, marries the first man with whom she is intimate and does not remarry after Art’s death. Carol has many flings before returning home from the war and settling down with Jimmy. Adele marries twice during the 1960’s and has a series of 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. Later, after leaving California, Ann describes a rewarding romantic relationship. She is learning to experience love without the fear of destruction by which it has always been accompanied.

Ann’s college years are her period of recovery from the wounds of life with her mother. Along with the turmoil each woman experiences come periods of calm and often healing. There are many physical recoveries in the novel. As a boy, Benny is in and out of hospital emergency...

(The entire section is 612 words.)