When I requested an advance readers’ copy (ARC) of Carry the One by award-winning author Carol Anshaw, I had very little idea of what to expect. There was just something about the title and the book cover that intrigued me, even though it was nothing I could define. I had no idea what an amazing read I had waiting for me. Carry the One may not be for everyone. It is definitely written for adults, as you’ll see in my synopsis. It’s a story about how one incident can change your whole life, for better or worse.
I don’t normally do this but I related so much to something Simon & Schuster’s executive editor said in the ARC publisher’s letter that I want to share it with you.
“I’ve never worked on a book that has generated so much in-house enthusiasm as Carry the One has. Almost daily, someone shows up at my door, not just to say ‘I loved this book,’ but wanting to sit down and talk about it.”
That’s how I felt but, since Carry the One hasn’t been released yet, there was no one for me to talk to about it. Agh! It’s the kind of novel that affects you so deeply that you really feel the need to hash out how you feel about it.
It’s the summer of 1983 and Carmen has just gotten married to Matt at her sister Annie’s Wisconsin farm. It’s a wonderful place Annie and other artists have taken over and made into an artists’ retreat. Their brother Nick and his girlfriend, Olivia, show up dressed as a reverse wedding couple, with Nick in a thrift-shop wedding dress and Olivia in a powder-blue tux. The whole place is filled with friends, family and friends of friends. All are partying, some are getting drunk and some are getting high.
A pregnant Carmen is watching her new husband do a very bad Mexican hat dance and wondering if his inability to dance bodes ill for their sex life. Annie finds herself in a bedroom having sex with Maude, Matt’s sister, of all people. Although Annie is out as a lesbian, Maude is closeted, but their attraction to each other is so intense there’s no denying it even in such a risky situation. And Nick is high as a kite, holding court in the attic with Olivia and a bunch of cousins.
“Alice was going to have to pull herself together, get herself outside, get her feet back on solid ground, she knew that. Instead she was lingering in surprising circumstances, having been dragged out of the ordinary progress of life into a hurtling, and (of course) sexual, detour…So far, this was the best moment of her life.”
The party goes late into the night. Everyone gets pretty wasted. There’s talk of the stragglers sleeping over but the decision is made at 3a.m. to head out. Olivia is driving. Nick is still wasted on something. Alice and Maude are sleepy and content in the back seat with Tom Ferris, who’s worn out from performing at the wedding and also half-asleep. As they ride along, the car goes through a dip in the road and then hits someone. Afterward it crashes into a large tree, landing on its side.
“The first Alice saw of the girl was not her standing on the side of the road or even running across it, but already thudding onto the hood of the car. A jumble of knees and elbows, and then her face, frozen in surprise, eyes wide open – huge on the other side of the windshield.”
Maude tries desperately to keep the 12-year-old girl alive while they wait for an ambulance. Everyone is shaken but no one is badly injured physically, except the girl who dies before the ambulance arrives. They’re all in shock and feel responsible for this little girl’s death. Nick also feels responsible for Olivia’s arrest and later her imprisonment, that he should be the one in jail instead. After all, he actually saw the little girl run across the field long before she ran into the road but, in his drug-induced state, he thought she was a hallucination until the car hit her. He feels he should have known she was real and have warned Olivia in time to save her.
Almost everyone involved, including Carmen, who feels like she let them leave in the car, has their “should haves” about the accident. Each carries enormous guilt about it. They are not the kind of people who kill other people, even accidentally, especially not children. It is so at odds with their values that they can’t reconcile it with who they are.
“In a deep recess, an inchoate space where thoughts rumble around, smoky and unformed, Alice’s biggest fear was that she and Maude and the accident were tied in an elaborate knot – that her true punishment for what happened that night would be God, or the gods, or the cosmos giving her Maude, then taking her away.”
Carry the One is seen through the eyes of Carmen, Alice, and Nick, the grown children of a semi-famous Chicago artist. I related to Alice and Carmen in particular, almost immediately. I could also relate to their family dynamics, which of course impacted who they were as people. Nick, an astro-physicist, was much harder for me to relate to because his drug addiction meant who he was inside really wasn’t present most of the time. When he was clean, however, it was apparent just how tortured and broken he was even before that fateful night.
Although I’d love to take you through this novel step by step so I can share the whole amazing experience with you, I’ve only set up the underlying premise for Carry the One in my synopsis – about the first 20 pages or so. This novel is predominately about how each of the participants’ lives is changed forever, as they carry forward the burden of the one who left this world way too early.
To say this story is a fascinating study of how we inevitably punish ourselves when the world doesn’t punish us would be a gross oversimplification. It’s so much more than that. I highly recommend Carry the One, and I’m very happy that one lucky reader will win a copy of their very own!
Here’s a video clip of Carol Anshaw discussing Carry the One:
Carry the One will be released on March 6, 2012; however, it should be available for pre-order at your favorite bookseller below. Just click the button to go there to get it.
I’d love to get your comments on Carry the One, Carol Anshaw, and/or this review.
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One lucky reader will win an advanced readers’ copy (ARC) of Carry the One by Carol Anshaw.
1) The deadline for entries is Saturday night, 3/10/2012, at 11:59pm EST. No entries after that date/time will be eligible.
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