Reviewed by Claudia Robinson

“Here’s what I hate. I hate that it doesn’t matter if we see each other. There’s still this connection, between me and him because we were both in the car. Like in arithmetic. Because of the accident, we’re not just separate numbers. When you add us up, you always have to carry the one.” – Alice to Carmen, Carry the One, Carol Anshaw

Carmen’s wedding to Matt in the summer of 1983 became a night no one would ever forget, but not for conventional or obvious reasons as befitting what should be, for all involved, one of the most beautiful days, ever. Instead, the memory of that night will be carried by a select few guests, for the rest of their lives, as the night their world’s were turned upside down and inside out, when Carmen’s sister Alice and her lover, Maude, Nick, Carmen’s brother and his girlfriend Olivia, and Tom, the budding rock star, intoxicated on excitement, each other, booze and drugs, hit and killed a young girl with their car on their way home.

Carry the One is a heartbreakingly honest story about five individuals, their connection to this one horrible night, over the span of 25 years, and it’s devastating effect on their lives, relationships and mental health. Intricate, detailed, poignant and complicated, this is a book that seems innocent and naive at first, only to bloom and unfold in to a display of such raw and intimate emotion and candidness, one almost feels intrusive, reading about each person’s struggles through the years.

Carmen’s divorce, childrearing woes and political agendas, Alice’s artistic endeavors to keep the dead girl alive and her continually tragic affairs with mercurial and cruel females, Tom’s narcissistic denial, Nick’s substance abuse and Olivia’s endeavor to reintegrate herself in to the real world after being incarcerated for being the driver that fateful night, are all displayed for the reader to explore, as they attempt to maneuver through their lives, ever shadowed and stained by the death of one young girl. The cause and effect of the night prompts choices, directs decisions, motivates passions and twists lives in to endings and beginnings that, perhaps, or perhaps not, may have been different under another lot cast.

Beautiful, haunting, and what could – under the pen of another hand – have been a darker, disturbing tale, Carry the One, in Anshaw’s, becomes, instead a masterpiece that is almost simplistic in nature, tinged with bittersweet humor, completely hypnotic, and utterly tragic. Anshaw’s characters explode between the pages, their emotions, their fears, their vulnerabilities, their relationship endeavors and failures, their search for peace, forgiveness, or both, weave through, under and over one other, delivering a hearty, full bodied read.

Seductive and unique, Carry the One is not a book you’ll put down, or forget any time soon.

Rating: ★★★★★ 

Claudia lives on beautiful Cape Cod with her husband and two children.

The review copy of this book was provided free of any obligation by Simon & Schuster. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.