Sunday, April 8, 2012

"Carry the One," by Carol Anshaw

“Carry the One” (Simon & Schuster, 2012), a novel by Carol Anshaw, is a sad but engrossing story of a group of young people who in 1983 were involved in a car accident that killed a young girl. For the rest of their lives, these (mostly related) characters remember and mourn the accident, and respond to it in different ways in their life choices and activities. Olivia, the driver, who was high at the time of the accident, chooses to go to prison; she doesn’t fight the case. Her boyfriend Nick, a gifted astronomer, loses himself in drugs and drink. His sister Alice, a talented painter, keeps painting the young girl at various stages of her life, as she imagines them. Their sister Carmen is an activist, fighting for every liberal cause, at the risk of her own safety. The way the characters are affected by, and deal with the aftermath of, the accident is one theme; the way their lives interweave over the years is another. The three siblings are united by their knowledge of their parents’ shortcomings, and by their fierce loyalty to each other. For example, Alice and Carmen, despite knowing how hopeless their efforts are, keep rescuing their brother Nick over and over again from the consequences of his horrific drug and alcohol binges. For most of the characters, there is some partial redemption by the end of the story, albeit redemption hard-earned over many years. And despite its sad premises, there is much else to savor in the novel: well-drawn characters, romance, love of family, art, travel, suspense, the ups and downs of the characters' lives, resilience on the part of some and not on the part of others, and more. For readers who look for believable characters and their relationships, this book will satisfy. The novel is also interesting in its evocation of American history and culture over the past thirty or so years.

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