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Publishers Weekly® Reviews
- Reviewed in: Publishers Weekly, page .
- Review Date: 2011-11-07
- Reviewer: Staff
The one that must be carried when the Kenney siblings add themselves up is the girl who was hit and killed when Nick and Alice were driving home, stoned and stupid, from their sister Carmen’s wedding. That’s the first chapter: the rest of the novel and the rest of their lives—sex and drugs and prison visits, family parties and divorce, raising teenagers, painting, politics, and addiction—play out with that guilt and loss forever in the background. Anshaw has a deft touch with the events of ordinary life, giving them heft and meaning without being ponderous. As the siblings’ lives skip across time, Carmen’s marriage, shadowed by the accident, falls apart; painter Alice’s career moves forward unlike her life, as she remains stuck on the same woman, her former sister-in-law; and astronomer Nick fights, with decreasing success, his craving for drugs. Funny, touching, knowing—about painting and parents from hell, about small letdowns and second marriages, the parking lots where people go to score, and most of all, about the ways siblings shape and share our lives—Anshaw (Seven Moves) makes it look effortless. Don’t be fooled: this book is a quiet, lovely, genuine accomplishment. (March)
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.