Carry the One
By Carol Anshaw
(Simon & Schuster, Hardcover, 9781451636888, 272pp.)
Publication Date: March 6, 2012
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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, craft their lives in response to this single tragic moment. 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 calamities and triumphs 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. As they seek redemption through addiction, social justice, and art, Anshaw’s characters reflect our deepest pain and longings, our joys, and our transcendent moments of understanding. This wise, wry, and erotically charged novel derives its power and appeal from the author’s exquisite use of language; her sympathy for her recognizable, very flawed characters; and her persuasive belief in the transforming forces of time and love.
Carol Anshaw is the author of Aquamarine, Seven Moves, and Lucky in the Corner. She has received the Ferro-Grumley Award, the Carl Sandburg Literary Arts Award for Fiction, and a National Book Critics Circle Citation for Excellence in Reviewing. She lives in Chicago.
In a new novel from Carol Anshaw called Carry the One, the repercussions of a single shared moment in her character's lives reverberates for years. Reviewer Alan Cheuse thinks the book plays out well in this review. Cheuse teaches writing at George Mason University. More at NPR.org
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- At her wedding reception, Carmen, in a moment of doubt about marriage, thinks: “Still, there was nothing to be done about it now. Forward was the only available direction.” How much of life is lived on this principle—taking the step that seems to come next? How often does this turn out to be following one bad decision with another based on the first? How does this apply to the characters in this book?
“Beautifully observed . . . [Anshaw] intimately dissects how one event or choice can alter the trajectory of a life, how a fork in the road can lead to wholly unexpected and divergent outcomes . . . a resonate 'Big Chill'-like look at how time affects relationships. . . . Though the novel grapples with the many sadnesses of life . . . it does so with lyricism and humor. . . . We are pulled along by [Anshaw's] uncommon ability to describe just about anything. . . . As the years unfurl in this affecting novel, memories of the accident that took Casey Redman's life receed, but the fallout from that night has been internalized by everyone involved, invisibly shaping their outlook on the world, their feelings about love and responsibility and regret.”—Michiko Kakutani, The New York Times
“Graceful and compassionate . . . Writing with rueful wit and a subtle understanding of the currents and passions that rule us, Anshaw demonstrates that struggling to do one's best, whatever the circumstances, makes for a life of consequence.”—People magazine, 4 stars
“If you love Jonathan Franzen, you’ll love this compelling book.”—Entertainment Weekly (Bullseye)
“Carol Anshaw is one of those authors who should be a household name (in literature-loving homes, anyway). There's a good chance that her latest novel, Carry the One, will make that happen . . . fine, eloquent.”—USA Today
“Moving and engaging . . . funny, smart and closely observed . . . explores the way tragedy can follow hard on celebration, binding people together even more lastingly than passion. . . . Anshaw gives readers the reward of paying close attention to ordinary people as [she] illuminates flawed, likeable characters with sympathy and truth.”—Sylvia Brownrigg, The New York Times Book Review
“Sentence by intelligent sentence, the novelist makes . . . us feel the remorse and joy and fears much more sharply than we can sometimes know those same emotions in the lives of our closest siblings or friends or even in ourselves. . . . Carol Anshaw gets under the skin of her characters and under the reader's, as well.”—Alan Cheuse, NPR’s “All Things Considered”
“Although Anshaw has long been a literary milestone-maker, her pioneering is the least of her accomplishments. Anshaw is that rare, brilliant, witty writer whose prose is rich and buttery and whose plotting is as well-conceived and seamlessly executed as that of the most intricate thriller. Her psychological insights lend exceptional depth to her characters, who are so painfully and hilariously recognizable that we cannot turn from the familiarity of their circumstances and their flaws.”—Chicago Tribune
“A brilliant feat of storytelling . . . one of the most intensely vibrant novels I've ever read. . . . This book is that kind of pearl."—Susan Straight, The Boston Globe
“Compulsively readable . . . subtle and seductive . . . a novel with the sweep of a family saga and the compressed gleam of a short story.”—Cleveland Plain Dealer
“Provocative . . . her style is dead-on. What makes this a good book is the way the characters change and interact over time.”—Dallas Morning News