Award-winning author Carol Anshaw’s latest novel, CARRY THE ONE, is an elegant, emotional and totally readable examination of tragedy and the passage of time. It follows a group of friends and relatives for over 20 years starting on a night that began with a celebration and ended with a horrific accident.
"Award-winning author Carol Anshaw’s latest novel, CARRY THE ONE, is an elegant, emotional and totally readable examination of tragedy and the passage of time.... It’s an outstanding and beautiful story of guilt, family, love, and both the healing and damage the years can bring."
Carmen and Matt’s wedding was both lovely and awkward. The bride and groom, though in love, hadn’t been a couple for long, and Carmen was already pregnant. Matt’s traditional Catholic family fussed over Carmen, the child of eccentric artists who just wanted the night to end. When finally her sister Alice, brother Nick and his new girlfriend Olivia, along with Matt’s sister Maude and their friend Tom, get into Olivia’s van to leave the reception, everyone knows Olivia is too intoxicated to drive, but no one stops her from getting behind the wheel. Before they have gone too far down the rural road, they hit 10-year-old Casey Redman, who had been walking home alone from a sleepover at a friend’s house. While Olivia is the only one charged with a crime (and serves several years in prison), Casey’s death is the subtext for the lives of the passengers for the next 25 years.
Alice is an artist, and her best paintings follow her image of a Casey Redman had she lived. Alice and Maude have a tense and passionate on-again/off-again relationship. Nick remains faithful to Olivia during her incarceration. But while she never does drugs again, becoming a hard and stoic figure, Nick’s drug and alcohol use becomes a dangerous addiction. And Tom, a musician who had originally tried to distance himself from the accident, eventually records a song about it, offending everyone involved. Even Carmen and Matt’s marriage seems affected by Casey’s death.
Even though the book explores the lives of the characters for more than two decades, the narrative is well paced --- it is never too brisk nor does it get bogged down in wordy explanations. Anshaw deftly handles the passage of time, the interior lives of her compelling characters, and the specter of Casey’s death as they all move away from it and on with their lives. There is humor, sadness, heartbreak, intelligence and compassion here. It’s an outstanding and beautiful story of guilt, family, love, and both the healing and damage the years can bring.
CARRY THE ONE begins with both a celebration and a catastrophe, and it ends with a catastrophe as well. But as Carmen, Alice and the others deal with all of it in this smart, heartfelt and thoughtful novel, they are finding their true selves, living authentic lives, and learning how to celebrate the ordinary and the real.
Reviewed by Sarah Rachel Egelman on March 8, 2012
Carry the One