Carry the One by Carol Anshaw

Carmen gets married in the country in the 1970s. After the wedding, her brother Nick, her sister Alice, the groom’s sister Maude, Nick’s girlfriend Olivia, and a singer named Tom all leave together. Olivia is driving even though she and Nick are high, Alice and Maude are in a sexual daze, and Tom is thinking only of himself when they hit a little girl running across the road in the middle of nowhere. The little girl dies, but her memory is carried by each of them, and Carmen, through the next several decades of their lives. The novel is told through three perspectives, the siblings: Carmen, Alice, and Nick. Each one faces guilt and grief over the girl’s death in different ways: Carmen through activism and parenting, Alice through her art as she climbs toward fame and her consuming, blind passion for Maude whose own grief surfaces in strange ways through her relationships, and Nick through his devotion to Olivia, but even more through his devotion to the numbness of being high. Alice’s story is the most compelling as she wades through mixed feelings for Maude and a hopeless, lovely communion with what she thinks is the spirit of the dead girl as she paints the lost girl over the years in situations and ages she will never reach. As with all families, the three siblings grow closer through tragedy and need and slip apart as their lives become altered by their choices—but never far apart. The novel explores the myriad ways in which those united by tragedy find ways to cope with grief and guilt and loss and hope. Anshaw’s prose is smooth and assured, calling to mind Jennifer Haigh and Alice Hoffman. Carry the One is a moving portrait of how a moment of tragedy can transform altered lives into loss or meaning.

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