Book Review: Carry the One

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I’m in a bit of a beginning of the new year book slump.  In fact, I have to say that in general, the first 3 weeks of 2012 have been crappy for myself and many of my friends and family members.  In protest, I’m just going to start writing the date, “20-bleh.”  And I never thought I’d say this in the whole of my life because I think February is probably the worst month of the whole year, but here’s hoping next month is better.

In the meantime, I’m behind on the amount of reading I need to do in order to read 100 books a year (I know it’s a little early to be worrying about this, but you don’t want to leave all the reading for the end).  And the local library website is down, which puts a serious wrench in all my reading plans.  “A serious wrench in my reading plans” means I might actually have to pick out some of the books on my shelves that have been languishing un-read and actually read them instead of getting something shiny and new from the library.

Anyway, Carry the One, by Carol Anshaw, is the bright spot amidst all this beginning of the year mess.  It came just at the moment when I needed a book that I could pick up and read in a couple of days.  Which is not to say it’s particularly short, but that it’s interesting enough that I was actually motivated to read it in a couple of days.

Carry the One is the story of a group of people whose lives become intertwined by a car accident in which a young girl is killed.  Some of the people are related to each other and some of them are not, but the accident forms a kind of bond in their lives that often brings them back together.  The novel is episodic, and we dip in and out of the characters lives across the span of years, from the initial accident when they are in their twenties into their middle age.

I have developed a theory of great literature lately that in very great books, not much really happens.  You can interpret “not much” any way you choose.  In Austen, the “not much” is that people get married.  In The Great Gatsby, people do not get married.  I’ve been thinking a lot lately that great fiction takes fairly unremarkable events and shows us something interesting about them.

At any rate, Carry the One has a somewhat remarkable event–a car accident and the death of the girl.  And this is an important part of the novel.  But mostly what happens after that is unremarkable.  People get married.  People get divorced.  Some people become mildly famous.  Some people become drug addicts.  Some people have children who grow up.  I can not get enough of well written fiction that is about unremarkable things.  And that describes Carry the One.

The novel is homey in the strangest way.  The characters were not really like me, but I felt very much like I knew them and understood them.  Even the characters whose lives were farthest from my own still felt like, I don’t know, a distant cousin or nephew?  Strange and sometimes annoying and tragic, but like they might still live next door.

Carry the One floats every so gracefully on the surface of a novel that is about Important Things, without making you feel the kind of discomfort that sometimes comes with reading a novel about Important Things.  For some reason, I can very easily imagine this novel as a movie, though most movies do not skip through time in the way this novel does (maybe something like When Harry Met Sally, only a little darker).

Carry the One will probably not change your life, but it will be enjoyable.  And if you want to think about what it would feel like to live your life under the burden of having been involved in the death of child, you can.  If you want to think about what it means to be connected to other people by such an event, you can.  If you want to contemplate the ways in which we are perhaps all connected by events beyond our control, go right ahead.

You should also check out this review, at As the Crowe Flies (And Reads!), on whose recommendation I picked this book up from the pile of ARCs at our local bookstore.

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