Wednesday, 25 July 2012

Carry the One by Carol Anshaw (2.5/5)

The back says: Carry the One begins in the hours following Carmen’s wedding reception, when a car filled with stoned, drunk, and sleepy guests accidentally hits and kills a girl on a dark country road. For the next twenty-five years, those involved, including Carmen and her brother and sister, craft their lives in response to this single tragic moment. As one character says, “When you add us up, you always have to carry the one.”

Through friendships and love affairs; marriage and divorce; parenthood, holidays, and the modest calamities and triumphs of ordinary days, Carry the One shows how one life affects another and how those who thrive and those who self-destruct are closer to each other than we’d expect. As they seek redemption through addiction, social justice, and art, Anshaw’s characters reflect our deepest pain and longings, our joys, and our transcendent moments of understanding. This wise, wry, and erotically charged novel derives its power and appeal from the author’s exquisite use of language; her sympathy for her recognizable, very flawed characters; and her persuasive belief in the transforming forces of time and love.

I say: This started out so nicely and had all the makings of perfection, but then it somehow just stagnated and withered into nothing. Somewhere along the line (and I can’t even pinpoint the exact moment) I found myself caring less and less about these people and their problems; they all seemed to turn into caricatures of the people we were introduced to at the beginning of the novel. Carmen with her protests and “strong/cold” demeanour; Alice with her ridiculous obsession with Maude; Nick with his incessant drug abuse and supposed genius; and all the other characters I see no reason of mentioning.

I’m actually rather disappointed.

Alice says at one point:

“There’s still this connection, between me and him because we were both in the car. Like arithmetic. Because of the accident, we’re not just separate numbers. When you add us up, you always have to carry the one.” – p 148

And I feel like this is where Anshaw failed to convince me. Yes, they were all connected due to the accident, but more so because they all so desperately wanted to hold on to it, for all the wrong reasons. I believe that Olivia was the only person who was able to move ahead because she was the only one that got punished for it. The others were fine to let her go to prison and carry on with their lives as long as they could all torture themselves by measure; especially the Sloan siblings. And then they had the impudence to look down on Tom for writing a song about it and then moving on. It felt like they wanted to lay claim on both the connection between them as well as the guilt.

Since they were all in the car together, they all have to share the same feelings their entire lives.

And I just have to leave a small comment on the contrived way in which Carmen’s husband left her, as well as Alice visiting Anne Frank’s house.


In a way I would like to give this a 1/5 because there are so many things about it that annoyed me, but that wouldn’t really be fair. I don’t have much to say about the writing; it flowed along nicely and got the job done. I’m giving this a 2.5/5 because if I had known how this would have turned out, I wouldn’t have read it.

Also, that ending really made me want to throw the book across the room (only I borrowed it from the library – thankfully).


  1. I have a copy of this book so I will probably still read it. Sorry it wasn't great for you.

    1. Oh you should definately read it. It's been getting great reviews, but I just wasn't impressed at all. I'll pop in to see what you take away from it.