four-stars
Bookmarks Issue: 
59-July-Aug-2012
By: 
Carol Anshaw
user_rating: 
0

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748243.pngCarol Anshaw’s 1992 debut, Aquamarine, achieved critical acclaim. Carry the One is her fourth novel.

The Story: In the summer of 1983, Carmen and Matt marry on a farm in Wisconsin—but their auspicious start soon takes a wrong turn. At 3 a.m., they say farewell to a carful of exhausted, inebriated guests: Carmen’s stoned brother, his drunk girlfriend (the driver), a musician friend, and the bride and groom’s gay sisters, who are entangled romantically in the backseat. Rounding a dark corner in the road, the car hits and kills a 10-year-old girl. The story tracks the damaged siblings through the next 25 years of their lives as they struggle to pick up the pieces—with the specter of the young girl’s death always present.
Simon & Schuster. 272 pages. $25. ISBN: 9781451636888

Milwaukee Jrnl Sentinel 4 of 5 Stars
"Anshaw is a sharp, commanding writer and often surprisingly funny. While her story is contemporary enough to include the events of Sept. 11, her mastery is classic." Jim Higgins

NYTimes Book Review 4 of 5 Stars
"Within a chapter it’s clear that Anshaw has written not only a funny, smart and closely observed story, but also one that explores the way tragedy can follow hard on celebration, binding people together even more lastingly than passion. … Carry the One is also a fond group portrait of the American cultural left, from the Take Back the Night rallies Carmen badgers Alice to attend in the 1980s, through her despair over the Rwandan genocide of the ’90s and on up to the attacks of 9/11." Sylvia Brownrigg

USA Today 4 of 5 Stars
"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 it happen." Carmela Ciuraru

Cleveland Plain Dealer 3.5 of 5 Stars
"Like life, the story lopes and jolts forever forward, the past something we can rue yet never undo. … The final scene bestows a touch of forgiveness, a gift never more precious than when, as here, it is so hard earned." Tricia Springstubb

New York Times 3.5 of 5 Stars
"Set partly in Chicago, Carry the One spans some 25 years—through President Obama’s election in 2008—and gives the reader a resonant, Big Chill-like look at how time affects relationships, tipping emotional dominoes one way or another within a family or circle of friends. Though the novel grapples eloquently with the many sadnesses of life—guilt and grief and disappointment—it does so with lyricism and humor." Michiko Kakutani

Critical Summary

It‚Äôs not easy to sketch the soul-fissured lives of people in the aftermath of disaster, but Anshaw, who is also a painter, does so with eloquence, exquisite description, and humor. The book includes contemporary issues, including lesbian rights, 9/11, and President Obama‚Äôs election, but its characters (mostly fully realized, though not without some clich?©s) have a timeless fragility and gravitate, like most of us, toward healing, no matter how difficult the process can be. Many critics liken Anshaw‚Äôs work to Jonathan Franzen‚Äôs. They both reveal how some human bonds are created, how existing ones can be strengthened (sometimes to the point of becoming unhealthy obsessions)‚Äîall with the goal of allowing ordinary, flawed people to survive and grow, even in the wake of irreversible tragedy.