Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Book Review: Carry the One by Carol Anshaw

Carry the One by Carol Anshaw
Date Published: March 6, 2012
ISBN: 978-1451636888
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Pages: 272
Genre: Contemporary Fiction
Rating: 4.5 out of 5

Publisher’s Book Summary: Carry the One begins in the hours following Carmen’s wedding reception, when a car filled with stoned, drunk, and sleepy guests accidently 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 Thoughts: Carmen is practical and decisive although she sometimes doubts her decisions later. The book opens at Carmen’s wedding reception. She’s not an ebullient, giddy bride. Carmen’s unsure about the marriage and now sees Matt, her new husband, as a stranger. Meanwhile, her sister, Alice, a passionate and impulsive artist, is locked away in a bedroom with the bridegroom’s sister, Maude. And Nick, their brother, is in another bedroom with his girlfriend Olivia, introducing some younger cousins to the wonders of mushrooms. A brilliant astronomer, Nick loves exploring the universe while high on hallucinogens and opiates. When Alice, Nick and the others drive off at the end of the night, no one is focused on the road or in any condition to drive although they all told Carmen they were fine. A short time later young Casey Redman is dead and the lives of the siblings and others are forever changed.

Carmen, Alice and Nick are amazingly real and relatable. They’re intelligent and successful but also flawed and damaged. They harbor pain and anger from a tough childhood at the hands of a nasty, unkind father, Horace and a mother, Loretta, who always sided with him. Carmen, Alice and Nick are bonded by their childhood experience and now by the death of Casey Redman. They grieve for her and cope with her death in different ways but she’s never far from their thoughts. Everything that happens in the lives of Carmen, Alice and Nick, from that day forward, is touched by Casey’s shadow.

Carol Anshaw has written a seemingly quiet, casual story that turns out to be powerful and emotionally complex. It depicts the myriad of ways the relationships and lives of Carmen, Alice and Nick are impacted by their pasts and particularly, by the death of a young girl, as the three grow and change over the course of 25 years. Anshaw writes beautifully and the pages of Carry the One are filled with Alice’s passion and intensity, Carmen’s stoicism and Nick’s nutty genius and the wit and sarcasm they share. It’s clear that Anshaw understands how human beings tick and cope with life and this understanding is depicted in her fantastic, intriguing and lovable characters. This is an absorbing book that grabs you and holds your attention until the last word. I only wish it was longer! I highly recommend this novel.

Carol Anshaw’s website.

Thank you to Simon & Schuster for an ARC copy of Carry the One.


  1. I was offered this book the other day but I wasn't sure it was really one I'd like. I'm kind of regretting my decision now. Great thoughts on it Amy!

  2. Sounds like a lovely book. Great review.

  3. My eyes light up when I see the words "emotionally complex". For some reason "nutty genius" also excites me! Thanks for drawing this book to my attention.

  4. I am going to be reading this one shortly, and am rather excited about it! I have heard such good things, and your review and description makes me even more eager. Thanks for sharing your thoughts!

  5. I love the sound of the premise - another for my wishlist - thanks for the review.

    Shelleyrae @ Book'd Out

  6. This sounds like a sad book, but I can handle that when a book is as well written as this one sounds.

  7. I've definitely got to get my hands on this one sooner rather than later!

  8. This sounds amazing. Would love to read this one sometime.

  9. Ooh, I'm adding this to my wish list right now!