Carry The One by Carol Anshaw
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Publication Date: March 2012
Reviewed by Chrystal Dorsey
In Carry The One Carol Anshaw presents her reading audience with a very ambitious fourth novel…one which spans from a 1983 Wisconsin wedding through the 2008 Election as it chronicles a Chicago family thrown off balance by a fatal accident.
This story explores how the lives of three siblings are affected after a fatal freak accident, that ends the life of 10 year old Casey Redman late one night on a dark dirt road with Nick's drugged out girlfriend Olivia behind the wheel.
The reason I accepted this selection from the Publisher for a read/review was because the last sentence of the first chapter really caught my attention – ‘…a jumble of knees and elbows, and then her face, frozen in surprise, eyes wide open-huge on the other side of the windshield.' - It held the promise of a thrilling and interesting read.
What I found within the two hundred and sixty nine page novel was; the (key) characters are rather tragic sheepish souls wondering aimlessly through their own lives, whose relationships are forged in grief and guilt. The storytelling is simple but is considered to be well crafted. The readers will follow the characters as they go through friendships and love affairs; growing up and finding success; marriage and divorce; parenthood, and the tragedies and joys of ordinary days.
There's Alice a basically sound lesbian that has a deep seated obsession for Maude, is also a gifted artist competing with her egocentric father; loving judgmental Carmen a political activist and then there's their brother, Nick, a once brilliant astronomer - he may be one of the most interesting characters in this tale, but that may largely be due to his constant drug induced state of mind ,he later swears off drugs in order to win back Olivia after she’s released from prison, however his addiction to drugs and alcohol have an even firmer grip on him than super glue on an eyelash. It is through Nick’s drug dependence that readers are able to see how degraded a talented person can become, and how eventually a family can become as equally exasperated with the user because of it.
As for the title it comes from Alice, who says: “Because of the accident, we’re not just separate numbers. When you add us up, you always have to carry the one.”
The author's poetic prose is rather outstanding as she casually writes about these characters without the benefit of any real action - which will keep some readers turning the pages in search of, as they are fall witness to Anshaw's exceptional gift as a wordsmith and the comfort she maintains while utilizing her extensive vocabulary with words such as coalesce (amorphous, fatuous, confluence) with ease and relevance. Nevertheless, I found the story to be rather dry - then again, that is perhaps the writer's intended goal, considering she is telling a story of the ordinary days of a rather ordinary family following an extra ordinary event - the most exciting and entertaining aspect of this read was held hostage within the first few chapters.
My final thoughts, I wanted and needed more zest, at least something that would propel me to want to vigorously flip through the pages, fall in love with the characters and be engaged by the story, alas Carry The One did not carry me through those various stages of interest as I’d hoped. And the book's abrupt ending did not conjure up a sense of satisfaction or the desired anticipation of more.