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The Boston Globe



‘Carry the One’ by Carol Anshaw

Tracing the fallout for three siblings after car accident takes the life of a child

“Carry the One’’ is a brilliant feat of storytelling, a total immersion into a family deeply injured, fractured, wounded in every way by a tragic death that occurs after the last truly happy, free moment in the lives of three siblings: a backyard wedding in rural Wisconsin in the early 1980s. Carol Anshaw takes chances from the first moments of the novel, her fourth book. The plot, which dives in and out of 25 years in the Kenneys’ lives, does not come in neat increments or even chapters that feel the necessity of traditional arc. It’s not “plates spinning in the air,’’ as some writers say, or a “kaleidoscope of scenes.’’ This is more like a series of intricate, perfectly illustrated dioramas called The National History of the Kenney Family After the Accident.

And that could be because Anshaw is also a painter. Her attention to scene is impressive. In that farmhouse where the wedding party is winding down, it’s 1983 and a messy rural artists collective: “A fat fly idled around the open window amid dangling pieces of stained glass. The room sighed out its own smell - a blend of burnt wood and wet clay. Trace elements of blackstrap molasses, tahini, apples, and dirty socks were also in the mix.’’

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