Carry the One, By Carol Anshaw
Out of a fatal accident comes a patchwork quilt of changed lives
Saturday 10 November 2012
Over the course of a quietly successful career, Chicago novelist Carol Anshaw has long explored how one event or choice can colour an entire life. Her 1992 debut, Aquamarine, imagined alternative outcomes for its feisty heroine - an Olympic swimmer - while this latest work kicks off with a wedding and an accident.
It's a hot summer day in 1983 when Matt and Carmen exchange vows in a backyard in rural Wisconsin. The well-oiled guests sing along to authentic folk ditties, while the heavily pregnant bride sits tight hoping to miss "the mortifying dances segment". Back inside, her sister Alice is being bedded by a woman called Maud - "So far, this was the best moment of her life" - and her brother Nick, dressed in a silk gown, is handing out magic mushrooms to the younger cousins. A few hours later and a car-load of these stoned guests drive into the path of a ten-year-old girl, killing her outright.
Over the next 25 year years - the novel ends with Obama's 2008 election victory - each passenger in the car will re-live that night, wondering how they might have re-written history. It's a Big Chill-style scenario in which some members of this tightly-bound group prove more vulnerable than others.
Anshaw's forte as a writer is to show how most of us stumble through life without the help of a road map. Cutting between stories, we watch as these liberal-leaning questers experiment with various personae and emotional props, from drugs to obsessive relationships. Early on, Carmen's husband leaves her for the 19-year-old babysitter while Nick, a brainy astronomer, turns to prostitutes and more drugs. Alice, the most successful sibling, makes her name as an artist with a series of portraits of the long-dead girl.
Reading Anshaw is like being submerged under a patchwork quilt of gorgeous detail. Every nuance of her characters' behaviour is beautifully accounted for, but as individual dynamic creations they fail make the heart beat faster. In Anshaw's hands, this generation of navel-gazers prove a gently soporific lot.
Watch the new House of Cards series three trailerTV
Oscars 2015It was the first time Barney has compered the Academy Awards
Oscars 2015 From Meryl Streep whooping Patricia Arquette's equality speech to Chris Pine in tears
Oscars 2015 Mexican filmmaker uses speech to urge 'respect' for immigrants
Oscars 2015 Bringing you all the news from the 87th Academy Awards
TV ReviewThe intrigue deepens as we delve further but don't expect any answers just yet
Razzies 2015 Golden Raspberry Awards 'honours' Cameron Diaz and Kirk Cameron
Film Hollywood's new leading lady talks about her Ramsay Street days
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Michelle Rodriguez: Fast & Furious actor apologises after telling 'minorities' to stop taking on 'white' roles
- 2 Raif Badawi, the Saudi Arabian blogger sentenced to 1,000 lashes, may now face the death penalty
- 3 PornHub turns masturbation into energy in bid to save the planet
- 4 Robert Mugabe eats a zoo for 'obscene' 91st birthday party
- 5 The remarkable archaeological underwater discovery that could open up a new chapter in the study of European and British prehistory
Broadchurch series 3: David Tennant and Olivia Colman to return for third season, ITV confirms
Eurovision 2015: Finnish punk band with learning disabilities applies to raise awareness
Drake matches The Beatles' record with 14 singles in top 100 chart at the same time
Fifty Shades of Grey movie shows first sex scene 'after 40 minutes'
Broadchurch finale: Erin Kelly's short stories will help with any withdrawal symptoms
New theory could prove how life began and disprove God
This is what it's like to be dead, according to a guy who died for a bit
'Cash for access' scandal: Sir Malcolm Rifkind says 'unrealistic' for MPs to live on £67,000 salary
'Jihadi John': CAGE representative storms off Sky News accusing Kay Burley of Islamophobia
Ukip would cut billions from Scottish budget to fund English tax cuts
Russia's roadmap for annexing eastern Ukraine 'leaked from Vladimir Putin's office'