Carry the One by Carol Anshaw
My rating: 2 of 5 stars
I think this book had an interesting premise, and it was very well-written, but it ultimately left me flat.
***Warning that this might contain some spoilers. I'm not recommending this book to anyone, but if you still want to read it, a couple of plot points are mentioned.***
The three main characters in this story are siblings Carmen, Alice and Nick. Some of their friends and lovers make up the minor characters. After Carmen's wedding, most of these characters jump into a car being driven by Nick's girlfriend, Olivia. Both Nick and Olivia are high, and they end up hitting and killing a young girl.
The story then follows these folks over the next 25 years or so. (The author does the time transition in an interesting way. You read several paragraphs into a chapter, and realize by various references that several years have gone by. I found that strange at first, but got used to it.)
You'd think that an accident like that would change someone's life for good, but with the three main characters, it really doesn't. Olivia serves time in jail and is the only one who truly does penance and changes her life.
Carmen, Alice and Nick go through their lives with fleeting thoughts of the accident from time to time. It makes sense that the accident might not affect Carmen as much since she wasn't in the car when it happened, but Alice and Nick were there. The reader can intuit that their behavior over the years is because of the accident, but the author doesn't really delve into it. For example, Nick clearly already had a drug problem before the accident happened. He was dating Olivia because she had good access to drugs. Chances are he would have remained an addict even if the accident didn't happen. The author doesn't give you enough insight into Nick's behavior to know if he's drinking and doing drugs because he can't get the accident out of his mind. His addiction just...is.
Similar story with Alice. She became obsessed with Maude at the wedding before the accident and remained so for most of the next 25 years. This relationship had nothing to do with the accident other than they were both in the car. Alice does think about the young girl that was killed from time to time and paints a series of portraits imagining how she would have grown up. She worries that those paintings might be her best work and thinks that by not showing them, she's atoning for the accident. But then, she becomes a famous artist anyway, so where's the atonement?
In the final chapters, the author tries to wrap up the stories of all the characters, and the message seems to be "life goes on." The last chapter about Olivia was unfulfilling. When I closed the book, I just thought, "huh?"
I wouldn't recommend this one. It's just okay.
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