Cover image for There is room for you
There is room for you
Bacon, Charlotte, 1965-
Personal Author:
First edition.
Publication Information:
New York : Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2004.
Physical Description:
276 pages ; 22 cm
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X Adult Fiction Central Library

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In a braided narrative that unites the stories of two striking women, Charlotte Bacon explores the emotional and psychological turbulence of suppressed family histories, the bravery needed to renew broken lives, and the difficulties we all have in responding to the pain of others. Anna Singer, a charmingly independent young New Yorker, feels derailed after losing her father to a car accident and her husband to a younger woman. She books a trip to India, hoping that there she will be able to put her grief into perspective. Though this is her first visit, India has always tantalized her: her English mother, Rose, was raised in Calcutta during the twilight of the British Raj, but seldom spoke of her childhood. Then, as Anna departs, Rose gives her a manuscript in which she has recorded her Indian memories--growing up with a Hindu ayah and a widower father, torn between two cultures and belonging completely to neither. Anna's sense of how she fits into the world is unexpectedly challenged by the daunting complexity of modern India, but even greater surprises are in store when she turns the pages of her mother's memoir. There is Room for You brilliantly traces the experience of India from the dual perspectives of Anna, who flees to the country, and Rose, who fled from it. The unexpected parallels in the lives of mother and daughter become a nuanced contemplation of the nature of family in a world of profound suffering.

Author Notes

Charlotte Bacon was born in New York and attended high school at the Milton Academy in Massachusetts. She went on to study at Harvard University, Columbia University, and the Universite de Censier in Paris.

Bacon held positions at Miss Potter's School, in Connecticut, and Williams College where she taught creative writing. She was also a writer-in-residence at Philips Exeter Academy.

Bacon won the Hemingway\PEN Award and the Associated Writings Programs Award for Short Fiction for her book, A Private State: Stories. Bacon won the 1996 Pirate's Alley/Falconer Society Award for Best Short Story for "Live Free of Die".

(Bowker Author Biography)

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

When Anna, a nonprofit grant writer, decides to travel to India in the wake of her father's death and the collapse of her marriage, she does so almost perversely. Her mother Rose was born in Calcutta and lived there with her father until she was 17, but she never discussed this part of her life with Anna or her brother--to them it was an entire childhood cordoned off like a diseased town. On the eve of her departure, Rose sends Anna a handwritten journal that she wrote after her marriage and move to Boston. As Anna travels around India, experiencing for the first time both its beauty and the horror of its poverty, she reads her mother's single-spaced account of a rather terrifying childhood in a dying colony. Anna begins to discern the long-obscured reasons behind her mother's nearly loveless interaction with her children and to regret her own childless state. Bacon has woven an insightful mother-daughter saga into her depiction of the complexity that is India, creating a satisfying amalgam of past and present. --Deborah Donovan Copyright 2004 Booklist

Publisher's Weekly Review

A trip to India reveals long-hidden secrets and helps a daughter reconcile with her difficult mother in this intelligent, richly atmospheric second novel by Bacon (Lost Geography). In 1992, Anna, a New York poet and grant writer, embarks on a trip to Calcutta to console herself for a double loss: the end of her marriage to a cold, ambitious man and the death of her beloved father. But the trip is largely Anna's attempt to understand her mother, Rose, a largely silent, often stingy, seemingly unloving woman, who was once "an English girl born in Calcutta, raised in its heat, its language. With no one in her household who quite understood her, the largest, whitest girl around. Seen but not known, a fearful combination." As a child, Rose was an innocent caught between the cultures of her remote, widower father and her warm Hindu caretaker, or ayah, in a society where young English girls weren't permitted to "mix" with Indians in public. But Rose's ayah showed the girl compassion and secretly took her to Indian temples and to a Holi celebration, a bacchanal where "men and children throw coloured dye at each other, and for weeks people sport magenta and green on their shirts, scalps, and hands," something forbidden by her father. As she travels, Anna reads a manuscript her mother has given her, which gradually makes plain just how traumatic the consequences of Rose's mixing became. Bacon's obsession is memory, and this novel flows across continents and generations in a wash of poetic images and richly drawn portraits of a family constrained by its inability to open up. Though the interweaving of flashbacks isn't always smooth, unconventional glimpses of India past and present sit vividly side by side with reflections on politics, perception and racial identity. (Apr.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

In her second novel (after Lost Geography), Bacon spins a beguiling mother-daughter tale. Already grieving over the loss of her father, thirtysomething Anna Singer finds herself even more alone when her husband runs off with a younger woman. Feeling adrift, she embarks on a trip to India, where her English mother, Rose, spent her youth and about which she wrote a memoir addressed to her daughter. The narrative shifts between Anna's trip in 1992 and her mother's reminiscences, interweaving their stories and exploring family connections and sorrows. Reminiscent of Amy Tan's The Joy Luck Club if lacking that book's magic, this intergenerational tale nevertheless sharply evokes the time and place of Rose's girlhood in the waning days of Raj and offers interesting parallels between the two women at similar ages. As Anna travels and reads the memoir, she, of course, uncovers a few secrets as well. Warmly recommended.-Ann H. Fisher, Radford P.L., VA (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Table of Contents

Anna / June 1992 / En route to Indiap. 3
Part 1 Anna / June 1992 / New Delbi and Agrap. 19
Rose / June 1969 / Port Clyde, Mainep. 51
Part 2 Anna / June 1992 / Varanasip. 109
Rose / June-July 1969 / Port Clyde, Mainep. 175
Part 3 Anna / June-July 1992 / Calcuttap. 239
Acknowledgmentsp. 275