The ripples of one moment
The author of such critically acclaimed books as Aquamarine and Lucky in the Corner, Carol Anshaw returns with a sure-to-be breakout novel, Carry the One. Between the opening, at a country wedding, and the ending, at an unfortunate funeral, Anshaw tells the story of three siblings who are bonded together not only by blood, but also by the tragedy of having accidentally run over an unknown girl.
Carry the One begins with Carmen and her spur-of-the-moment hippie wedding. She is unexpectedly pregnant, yet eager to begin her life with Matt. However, Carmen’s sister Alice and their stoned brother Nick (along with his postal-worker girlfriend Olivia) manage to take the night in a different direction on their ride home, when Olivia (the driver) accidentally strikes and kills a young girl. The ensuing, interlocking stories follow each of them in the aftermath of this catastrophic event.
Readers will become invested in Alice, the soon-to-be-famous painter who not only struggles with emerging from the shadow of her misogynist, famous father, but also carries an endless torch for Maude, Matt’s sister. Their battle of a love affair rises and falls over the years, as their careers—Maude’s as an actress and Alice’s as an artist—take turns eclipsing the other person’s role in their lives. While Olivia—after taking the rap and being sent off to jail—becomes straight edge, it is Nick who is most haunted by the death they inadvertently caused. He squanders his genius in astronomy with endless cycles of alcoholism and addiction. And the eldest, Carmen, struggles to remain true to herself as a political women’s activist in her faltering marriage.
These stories perfectly capture the changes within the characters as they grow older, shedding their more light-hearted attitudes toward sex, drugs and work. Tied together by that roadside tragedy, this makeshift family struggles to protect and support one another through heartbreak, addiction and even violence.
Anshaw’s prose in Carry the One is delicate and effortless, flowing from one beautifully believable scene to another. Its quiet power lies in her observation of how easy it is to destroy something and how much effort it takes to focus on keeping everything—and everyone—together.