In this richly braided narrative, we enter the lives of two very different women, an English mother and her American daughter, one raised in India and fleeing from it, one ignorant of India and rushing toward it. Charlotte Bacon's stunning novel explores not only the bonds between parents and children and the turbulence of suppressed family histories, but also the bravery needed to respond to the pains of others.
Anna Singer, a charmingly independent young New Yorker, is dazed with grief after the death of her father in a car accident and after losing her husband to a younger woman. Hoping to put her losses into perspective, she books a long trip to India, a country that she has never visited but that has always tantalized her: her reticent English mother, Rose, was raised in Calcutta during the twilight of the British Raj, but rarely spoke of this to her children. Then, just before Anna departs, Rose gives her a bundle of typewritten pages in which, it turns out, she has recounted her youth in India—growing up with a Hindu ayah and a widower father, coming of age in a time of cultural and political turmoil. Anna now faces the unexpected shocks of India today, along with the even greater surprise in store for her in her mother's memoir.
From the dual perspective of mother and daughter, There Is Room for You gives us India in all its daunting complexity and apparent indifference to individual pain. Anne and Rose must each discover in India where they are going and what they will call home, and so must others: an Israeli translator who needs independence and love as much as Anna does; a street waif Anna tries to rescue; a charming shopkeeper; two frightened English university students and the Spanish girls they befriend; Rose's English father (all science, spit and polish) and his extraordinary assistant, Krishna; and Rose's beloved ayah.
For Anna and Rose, the America they call home takes on new meaning in its contrast with turbulent India—whether it is New York's sophisticated professional milieu, where Anna wants to find herself; or the old house near Boston where she spent her childhood; or the seaside Maine cottage where her mother still seeks refuge. As the unforeseen parallels in the lives of Anna and Rose emerge, so does a nuanced contemplation of the nature of family and love in a world of profound suffering.