The three central figures of Carol Anshaw's Carry the One are a set of three siblings, two sisters and one brother, attempting to function through a sThe three central figures of Carol Anshaw's Carry the One are a set of three siblings, two sisters and one brother, attempting to function through a systematic dysfunction that began long before tragedy strikes at the eldest sister's impromptu wedding. Very early in the book, the three are enmeshed in a car accident that leads to the death of a young girl, and the frail holds each has on life begin to loosen.
The book is a collection of snapshots that span the decades following the accident, chronological glimpses into the futures of these characters that occasional link back to the weak foundation of their childhood with an abusive and controlling father and an ineffective and submissive mother. At times, it's hard to tell which has been the more lasting impact on their adults lives: the troubled childhood or the car accident. Carmen, the oldest sister, wonders early on if marriage is merely "a groove already worn for you. You had a place now. The music had stopped and you'd gotten a chair" (10). This constant questioning of life's tenets plagues each character in various ways: Alice, the younger sister, struggles with failed sexual relationships, and Nick, the brother, is marked by their father as a failure long before he becomes an adult addict.
Anshaw captures so much of life accurately here, life that is thrown into a sharp focus by the tragedy that opens the story and propels it forward, yet her prose is at times imprecise and even misleading. Still I found myself moved to tears at various moments as the characters' experiences echoed my own, like the girls' attempts to love and care for their brother, struggling with terrible thoughts like the idea that each time they went to his apartment, "they thought it would be the time they'd find him dead" (217).
I don't want to make this book sound like it was painful to endure. The valleys here are deep, but Anshaw does lift the reader up throughout so that the novel doesn't send you into a downward spiral (in the way a book like Angela's Ashes does). It's a fine read, and definitely something that sparks some interesting contemplation about how frail our life trajectories really are....more
Wow. What an amazing piece! This was one of the last of my six Pulitzer Prize-winning books I'm reading in preparation to study with my senior seminarWow. What an amazing piece! This was one of the last of my six Pulitzer Prize-winning books I'm reading in preparation to study with my senior seminar this fall (the final one, Lynn Nottage's Ruined won't be published until November), and boy was it wonderful! As with the others, there will be so much to talk about in terms of what aspect of "American life" the play portrays that may have earned it the Pulitzer.
When I began the play, I was struck by how large the cast was, with several characters only appearing in a few pages of the script. This certainly gave it a feeling of the heavyweight plays of yesteryear. One reviewer from New York Magazine who is quoted on the back of the book says, "Tracy Letts's August: Osage County is what O'Neill would be writing in 2007." And the comparison is totally apt, bringing to mind the doomed family of O'Neill's Long Day's Journey into Night. The Weston family here is constantly at odds with one another, usually playing their hostility just below the surface, covering it with the quintessential image of the functioning dysfunctional family.
I loved the play (and can't wait for it to come to Boston in the spring so I can see it performed live); however, it's pieces like this that really mess with my head and my own ideas of family and happiness. Near the end of the play, one character announces that "people can convince themselves they love a painted rock" in regards the many ridiculous relationships that surround her, including her own, masquerading as healthy family environments. The same character earlier identifies America as an "experiment" full of "hubris" that has disappeared but "no one saw it go." A horrifying idea certainly, but one that captures a certain amount of truth in the mainstream of our country. Sentiments like this really make me analyze (and sometimes over-analyze) my own concepts of happiness. Am I fooling myself in thinking that I am immune to the dangers of the Weston family because I educate myself about their existence? (I hope not!)
As with most modern plays that tackle this subject matter, it is laced with terrific humor and touching emotions. This makes it entirely readable (and I'm sure enjoyable to watch live) without a sense of total desperation about the futility of American happiness.