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Monday, March 26, 2012

Carry the One by Carol Anshaw - BOOK REVIEW

Carry the One by Carol Anshaw
Title:  Carry the One
Author:  Carol Anshaw
Publisher:   Simon and Schuster
Release Date:  March 6, 2012
Hardcover, 253 pages
ISBN 10:     1451636881
ISBN 13:  9781451636888
The Book Depository / Amazon

Indie Next List
March, 2012 Indie Next List
Goodreads description:

This stunning, break-out achievement has already been hailed by Emma Donoghue, bestselling author of Room, for presenting “passion and addiction, guilt and damage, all the beautiful mess of family life. Carry the One will lift readers off their feet and bear them along on its eloquent tide.”

Carry the One begins in the hours following Carmen’s wedding reception, when a car filled with stoned, drunk, and sleepy guests accidentally hits and kills a girl on a dark, country road. For the next twenty-five years, those involved, including Carmen and her brother and sister, connect and disconnect and reconnect with each other and their victim. As one character says, “When you add us up, you always have to carry the one."

Through friendships and love affairs; marriage and divorce; parenthood, holidays, and the modest tragedies and joys of ordinary days, Carry the One shows how one life affects another and how those who thrive and those who self-destruct are closer to each other than we’d expect. Deceptively short and simple in its premise, this novel derives its power and appeal from the author’s beautifully precise use of language; her sympathy for her very recognizable, flawed characters; and her persuasive belief in the transforming forces of time and love.

My Take: 

In 1983, Carmen, who runs a suicide hotline, is pregnant and newly married to Matt Sloan.   Leaving the wedding in the wee morning hours, Alice (Carmen's sister - an artist), Maude (Matt's sister), Nick (Carmen's brother - a grad student), Tom (a folk singer - married - boyfriend of the wedding hostess Jean), and Olivia (Nick's new girlfriend, also the driver of the car), all doped up and/or drunk, hit a 10-year-old girl on the road and the little girl dies.

This story follows this disparate group of characters and others in the years following the accident.  Although it purports to be about how they "carry the one" (the young girl who was killed) with them in their memories afterwards, as I read, other than one particular character, I didn't get this feeling from them at all.

The main focus is on Carmen and her siblings, children of a famous artist who seems to resent any artistic success had by Alice.

Carmen is actively involved in many social issues. Alice is an artist who falls madly in love with Maude.  Nick is a perpetual student who can't get away from drugs.  Their lives are basically a train wreck, not because of the accident, but because of their own poor choices.

I could not really identify with the characters, but the writing and what I thought would be the storyline did keep me reading to see what happened.  In the end, for me, it didn't feel substantial.  Maybe it was the shifting perspectives in time and/or character, or maybe it was that I simply couldn't find a character to bond with, but I was never fully caught up in the novel.

MAYBE it was because nothing really good happens.  I realize that all of life has bad moments, but life isn't ALL bad, and in this novel, there isn't a bright spot to be found.   Every time I came across what I THOUGHT would be one, my hopes were dashed to the ground.

The writing, however, is impeccable.  For me, the story itself just wasn't enjoyable or compelling, and the wonderful writing style couldn't make up for that.  It will, however, appeal to many other readers, as attested by the fact that the reviews for this one are all over the board.  Readers seem to either love it or feel "meh" about it.

QUOTES (from an ARC; may be different in final copy):

For a few years after she came out, Alice essentially got dumped by Loretta, who couldn't see the point of being a lesbian.  In her scheme of things where men were everything, if you weren't one, or attached to one, what was your value?  

Carmen said, "I guess I was looking at everything from the wrong angle.  I didn't think we were breaking up. I thought he and I were just having this interesting conversation about how to be married in the late twentieth century.  And how to go forward, together.  It was kind of like when I had all those parking tickets I was contesting with the city.  I thought that was a lively back-and-forth, too, and then I came out of the house one day and my car was booted."

In order to keep liking Nick (as opposed to loving him, which was non-negotiable), Alice sometimes had to look at him obliquely, or with her eyes half closed, or through a pinhole in a piece of cardboard. Straight on would burn her retinas.

On 9/11:

By mid-afternoon, Carmen was sifting the text for the subtext. "We're through the information-gathering part. The information is now in.  Now they're shaping this for our consumption, imposing a story line. The brave passengers taking the last plane down in the field.  The firemen rushing in heedlessly, answering their call to duty. And pretty soon, they'll get the president ready for his close-up to congratulate us for being Americans.  This huge unprecedented, unmanageable mess, and all the complexity behind it - they're already starting to manage it.  They're making a theater piece out of pure horror so we can watch the unwatchable then get back to the mall."

Writing:  4.5 out of 5 stars
Plot:  3.5 out of 5 stars
Characters:  3 out of 5 stars
Reading Immersion:   2.5 out 5 stars

BOOK RATING:   3.4 out of 5 stars
BLOGGERS:  Have you reviewed this book? If so, please feel free to leave a link to your review in the comments section; I will also add your link to the body of my review.

Sensitive reader:  This book contains sexual scenes and references.

Browse Inside

BUY IT:  At Amazon, The Book Depository, through the publisher's website,  and through other on-and-off-line booksellers.

Disclosure:  I  received a  complimentary ARC of this title from the publisher to facilitate my review.  No other compensation was received and I was not required to post a positive review.


  1. Ugh.... I totally agree... it has really bothered me that I could not figure out what was missing.... and then after finishing Weird Sisters today it hit me... there is no real plot. There is a plot (the girl) but that plot is blown in the first few pages and then....
    nothing. There is no meat or meaning to this book.


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