Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Carry the One by Carol Anshaw (review #140)

Carry the One by Carol Anshaw

Publisher: Simon and Schuster
Genre: Fiction
Format: ARC
Release Date: March 2012

For those of you who have been following my previous posts, you will know that I found myself in a bit of a slump. A reading slump, that is. I was concentrating so heavily on my Mystery Challenge that I slammed head on into a massive, pressure induced rut. I was determined to read as many mystery authors as possible and well, the ones I picked up were less than impressive. So, I took some of your advice, and switched gears for a sec. No fear, though. That mystery challenge isn't going anywhere. It's still a top priority for me.

I looked to my pile of books.

Not only did I get the opportunity to go to BEA this year , I also had a chance to work the Midwest Independent Booksellers Association Trade Show, which, I'm told, is like a mini BEA for the Midwest area. I had a blast and walked away with an enormous amount books, almost as much as I got at BEA. I did not expect this at all.

One of my responsibilities was to work with authors who were guests at the trade show. I helped them sign all the copies of their books that were featured. One of the authors that I was able to help and meet was Carol Anshaw, the author of Carry the One. We chatted a bit and I gave her my card. I told her literary fiction was one of my favorite genres and she said I should snag a book and read it.

I'm certainly glad I did. This eloquent, honest character driven novel pulled me out of my slump. I chose to do the review now, even though the book is not to be released until March 2012, because it was fresh in my mind and I wanted to tell you all about it.

Here is a glimpse of what it is about from Simon and Schuster:
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.

This is a novel where everything and nothing happens. The tragic death of the young girl in the beginning of the book lingers throughout the entire book, which gives it that sense that though time moves on, the characters remain stuck in the same place. Carmen, Nick and Alice are siblings and are whom we follow over the course of twenty some years. We follow Carmen's activism in women's rights, her crumbling marriage and motherhood to Gabe. We follow Nick's addictions, his brilliant career in astronomy that he destroys time and time again and his obsession with Olivia, the driver who killed the young girl. And we follow Alice (my favorite character) in her growing career as a painter, fixated on portraits of the dead girl and her tumultuous, co-dependent relationship with Maude.

I loved and hated these characters with every page. Anshaw has a way of writing that nails the psychology of humans. She explores the complicated relationships between men and women, sister and brother, mother and daughter, by breaking wide open inhibitions, those sticky boundaries that hold us back and that pesky fear business that keeps us hiding in our closets.

Nick was a pain in the ass junkie who could have been dropped in a gutter and forgotten many times over but you still cared for him. Anshaw made you still want to care, much like you would do if it were your family member.
Carmen was passive and aggressive in her own way and sometimes you wanted to shake her but you understood she created her own sense of control to erase the guilt of that night. You rooted for the big sister in her.
And Alice, sweet, vulnerable, easily swooped up Alice. Lost, yet centered in her art. Open, yet closed off to a life that didn't include Maude. Talented, but haunted by her portraits of the young girl they killed.

Anshaw did a beautiful job in the creation of these wounded characters. It was a joy to read. She also filled the book with other side characters that give it a bigger dynamic. She also gave it an ending that was quiet, yet satisfying. Sad, but expected.

Rating: 6/6
I give this my top rating. It hit my mood just right. The writing flowed flawlessly. I had so many post its of sections I liked, it made it almost impossible to read, because they got in the way. I didn't include any of those lines. I'll just leave those for me to enjoy and perhaps, for you to discover. The most powerful line, which is included in the back cover description, is "When you add us up, you always have to carry the one."
Powerful, don't you think? What is the "one" in which we carry?
I highly recommend this novel for any fan of literary fiction. It is intense, sweet, honest and hopeful, all at the same time. I am pleased I had a chance to meet Carol Anshaw and I am honored to be able to share this review with you all.

Author Website:

Happy reading and as always, thanks for stopping by!

red headed book child


Christine said...

This book sounds truly amazing. I just know I would be completely immersed in this book if I picked it up... which I definitely want to do. But... it sounds immensely sad, too, so that's holding me back for now. I'm sure once I see it in person somewhere it'll come home with me...

Jenny said...

I love that you were able to find a great book to enjoy during your slump! It really sounds fantastic. I love when an author can really portray the psychology of people and the dynamics between a group of people. I'll look forward to reading this one!

christa @ mental foodie said...

Glad to hear you got out of the slump! I found that I can't read too many mystery/thriller in a row or they all tend to be the same or don't live up to the expectation of the last good one.

I am not into literary fiction though (I'd read enough to know most are not for me...)

My in-laws used to own a book store and I'd been tot he midwest convention with them once though it was like 10 years ago... way before my blogging day. I enjoyed it then, but I would enjoy it much more now that I am blogging!

DMS said...

Wow! This review gave me goose bumps! It sounds like a very intriguing book- I like how you said you loved and hated the characters. I will have to read this one!

I found you through Book Blogs and signed up to follow you. When you have a chance- please stop by and follow the blog for my middle grade novel that I am hoping to get published.

Take care-
Jess- although I may show up as Fairday, the main character from my novel. I can't figure out why that happens and I can't fix it. :)

Stacy at The Novel Life said...

What a beautiful review. I love literary fiction and this sounds like one that would stay with me for days afterward. I will be on the lookout for it! Glad you found something to get you out of your slump!

(Diane) Bibliophile By the Sea said...

Carry the One does seem like a good one. Hope I get to read it as well.

StephTheBookworm said...

This sounds SO interesting. I love books that have unique plots and this sounds like it does.

Melissa said...

Oh, wow ... this sounds so intriguing and very different. Glad you shared this with us! I'm going to look for this one when it comes out in March. Thanks for the review!

Lisa said...

Okay - wow! Now I really can't wait to read this one. I'm a sucker for a book which can make me both love and hate the characters.