The Korea Herald


Exploring the luxury of living

By Korea Herald

Published : March 30, 2012 - 20:47

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Carry the One

By Carol Anshaw 

(Simon & Schuster)

A car, carrying revelers from a Wisconsin wedding reception who are stoned, drunk, sleepy and distracted by lust, strikes a 10-year-old girl on a country road and kills her. Carol Anshaw’s masterful novel, “Carry the One,” recounts both the horror of the accident and the way it reverberates in a cluster of lives, particularly sisters Carmen (the bride) and Alice and their brother Nick (both in the death car).

Alice goes on to success as a painter, great enough to be feted in Amsterdam. But almost no one ever sees her masterpieces, eerie paintings of Casey Redman, the dead girl, aged over the years, which Alice feels are somehow dictated to her:

“Alice never had a day she didn’t think about the girl. Everybody, she figured, had to coat the grain of sand in his or her own way. Making these paintings was hers.”

Olivia, Nick’s girlfriend and later wife, was driving the car, stoned. She pleads guilty and emerges from prison completely straight-edged. Nick, an astronomer and construction worker, tries to use her for the strength to shake his drug addiction.

Where Alice sees paintings of the dead girl in her mind’s eye, Nick feels compelled to visit her parents, now separated.

Carmen, the grounded one, a do-gooder and activist, had married Matt, whom she barely knew, on the night of the accident, because she was pregnant. That same night, Alice was swept up into a passionate but exhausting affair with Matt’s sister Maude, a model, which would thrill and trouble her for years.

“It was usually not, Carmen had told Alice, a good situation when the same person provided both the pain and the analgesic.”

The relationship Anshaw depicts between temperamentally different yet loving and committed sisters is one of the great pleasures of her novel. She writes succinctly, yet still provides plenty of the texture of their lives.

The word “closure” appears in this book, but these characters don’t fool themselves about its possibility in their lives. “We don’t deserve the luxury of our lives,” Carmen tells her husband late in the book.

Anshaw is a sharp, commanding writer and often surprisingly funny. While her story is contemporary enough to include the events of Sept. 11, her mastery is classic. (MCT)