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Book Reviews
2:00 pm
Thu April 5, 2012

Review: 'Carry The One'

Transcript

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Audie Cornish.

ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

And I'm Robert Siegel.

We have a review for you now of a book set at the intersection of joy and tragedy. In her new novel, "Carry the One," writer Carol Anshaw begins with a momentary lapse of judgment. She then follows its tragic consequences for years for the lives of her characters.

Here's reviewer Alan Cheuse.

ALAN CHEUSE, BYLINE: The novel kicks off with a lively wedding party. Carmen Kenney marries Matt Sloan in the rural upper Midwest. Before the night ends, a car packed with some of the drunk, stoned Kenney family members and their guests roars along a dark country road and runs over a teenage girl. This death reverberates through the family over the next 25 years, affecting parents and children, old friends and new, as the clan and its cohort rattles and unravels in love, hope, addiction, despair, births and other deaths.

Husband Matt, with whom Carmen has a child named Gabe, leaves her for the babysitter. Carmen's gay sister, Alice, becomes famous, painting portraits of the dead girl. Fashion model, Maude, who drove the car that fateful evening, goes to prison. Nick, the bride's brother, stands out as one of the most unusual characters you'll come across this year, an acclaimed astronomer with a huge drug habit.

Sentenced by intelligent sentence, the novelist makes all of these folks and more well known to us in that particular and peculiar way that a novelist can, making us feel the remorse and joy and fears much more sharply than we can sometimes know those same emotions in the lives of our closest siblings or friends or even in ourselves.

As with sister Alice, who we read wants to paint people in ways that set up a disturbance between the painting and the viewer, ways that disrupted the conventional notions of portraiture. Carol Anshaw gets under the skin of her characters and under the reader's, as well.

SIEGEL: The book is "Carry the One" by Carol Anshaw. Alan Cheuse teaches writing at George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright National Public Radio.