A Private State



Here is a finely crafted collection of stories about women who have arrived at awkward edges in their lives. Some are adolescents, some at the brink of old age, and some find themselves suddenly ill or pregnant. Others come to the abrupt discovery that their marriages are not as whole as they had believed, while a few tumble onto startling secrets. But despite their range in age and situation, they all try to use their new knowledge to stitch together a fresh pattern by which to live.

While most of the action unfolds along the East Coast—in Maryland, Maine, Boston, Philadelphia, New York—several of the women travel to Arizona, California, and Jamaica. Often the light is too bright in these glittery places and they wonder why they have come. Many seem to be searching for a sense of home, which one girl describes as a place that is "complete and full of longing all at once."

Yet this desire for a personal territory, a point of constancy, is not necessarily rewarded: in this book, separations lead to divorce, sisters continue to misread each other, cancers kill. Still, the women refuse to turn their gaze away from what the world has thrown in their path. Often as not, they pick it up, wonder at it, test its relevance, and continue on, not happier perhaps, but certainly more knowing.

With humor and insight, Charlotte Bacon illuminates the unexpected ambiguities of women's lives. A Private State marks the arrival of an extremely talented writer

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