Mainstream Fiction

Carry the One by Carol Anshaw

Carry the One begins after a wedding reception when a carful of guests on their way home hit and kill a young woman on a dark country road. The members of the car are bound for life by this horrific tragedy, that forever affects and shapes the remainders of all of their lives. Through marriages, parenthood, affairs, and tragedies, Carry The One shows how a single event can forever alter the path that life takes.

Carry the One is no sappy tale about lives transformed and profound lessons learned after of a terrible accident. Instead, Anshaw shows us how trauma changes everything and nothing. These characters are no wiser for having endured the accident. They don't transcend the past so much as wish they could erase it. There is no such thing as relief.
The book contains a series of events over a time period of twenty five years, with emphasis on the events that are worth mentioning. The story moves forward fast, never rendering a dull moment . The fact that a multitude of lives are brought into focus helps to keep the story fascinating.

The structure of the book is interesting and refreshing, following the characters throughout their lives and how each person carries the incident with them. The writing is simplistic and it a quick and enjoyable read. The story is compelling and the main characters and minor characters are well drawn with characteristics that were easy to relate to. Real and engaging, each had qualities that reminded me of people in my own life. Carol Anshaw’s words created images that I wanted to save in my mind. I found myself re-reading sentences and paragraphs just for the pleasure of reading her prose.

Author Notes

Carol Anshaw is the author of four novels Carry the One, Lucky in the Corner, Seven Moves, Aquamarine. She is also the author of numerous short stories, with two of her stories “Hammam” and “Elvis Has Left the Building” were chosen for inclusion in Best American Short Stories of 1994 and 1998 respectively.Anshaw is a past fellow of the Illinois Arts Council and the National Endowment for the Arts. She teaches in the MFA in Writing program at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. She lives in Chicago and in Amsterdam with her partner, the filmmaker Jessie Ewing, and her dog Tom.

Three Junes by Julia Glass
Whatever You Love by Louise Doughty
The Good Wife by Stewart O’Nan

Donna Brown, Northport East Northport Public Library

The Weird Sisters by Eleanor Brown

Author Eleanor Brown explains that she drew upon her own experiences growing up, as well as her interest in birth order, when she wrote this debut novel. This is the story of three sisters from a small town in Ohio who grew apart as they grew into adulthood. The reader may wonder if this may be due, in part, to the names that were given to them by their father, a Shakespearean-scholar. Rosalind (The Tempest), Bianca (The Taming of the Shrew), and Cordelia (King Lear) each exhibit personality traits that are congruent with their literary namesakes. Though Shakespeare is often quoted, familiarity with the bard’s works is not a prerequisite to enjoy this book.

When their mother is diagnosed with cancer, Bianca (Bean) and Cordelia (Cordy) are summoned home. The eldest, Rosalind (Rose) is still living at home and caring for their mother. As the story unfolds, it becomes clear that each of the sisters envies and/or resents the others while feeling like a failure in their own life: Rosalind is having difficulty separating from the security of her hometown; Bean has been fired from her job in the big city for embezzling; and Cordy, who has been living a hippie-like existence, returns home secretly knowing that she is pregnant.

Brown’s casual writing style follows each of the sisters as they struggle through their trials, as it also follows their mother through her cancer treatment. Brown often lightens the mood with humor and romance making The Weird Sisters an easy, entertaining, and contemporary read with extensive and engaging character development.

Read-alikes can include The Weissmanns of Westport, a title that also concerns itself with sisters and the impact of literature on their lives; The Arrivals by Meg Mitchell Moore, which deals with the dynamics between siblings and their parents; and three daughters return home to say goodbye to their mother who is battling Alzheimers in More Than You Know by Nan Parson Rossiter.

Deborah Formosa, Northport-East Northport Public Library

The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce

Harold Fry has spent the majority of his life trying to be unobtrusive, to make as little trouble as possible.  Although he loves his wife Maureen, he is aware that she finds him  annoying.  He mourns his lack of connection to his son David and his perceived failure as a father.  After working for many years at the local brewery, he has retired and now spends his life doing. This is the story of a man barely existing, seemingly waiting for life to come to a predictable end.

Then one day a letter arrives.  This letter is from Queenie Hennessey; she has written from a hospice 400 miles away to say goodbye before she dies of cancer.  This letter jolts Harold, causing him to remember the days that he worked with Queenie at the brewery and the kindness she showed him.  He feels the need to acknowledge the letter but, at first, he’s unable to adequately respond.  Finally, he writes a dry sentence or two and heads to the post box down the road to send it off.

When Harold gets to the post box, he decides that he’s not ready to mail the letter quite yet.  He will walk to the next box so that the letter will arrive sooner.  Thus begins an unintentional journey, spurred by the words of a greasy-haired girl at a gas station, who tells Harold that with faith you can do anything.  Harold adds a postscript to his letter asking Queenie to hang on…he will walk to her.

Harold’s pilgrimage and its effect on the people in his life and the people he meets on the road is a story of discovery and redemption; friendships lost and found; and the pain and joy of family relations.  Written with delicacy and skill by Rachel Joyce, the little English villages and their inhabitants come to life as Harold wanders through. This is a quirky, character-driven story that may surprise the reader.

The Tower, The Zoo and The Tortoise  by Julia Stuart
A Dirty Job by Christopher Moore
Mrs. Queen Takes the Train by William Kuhn

Terry Z. Lucas, Rogers Memorial Library

The History of Love by Nicole Krauss

The History of Love by Nicole Krauss was labeled as sentimental Jewish magic realism by the L.A. Times.  Kirkus declared it “the histories of several unresolved, formless and remembered loves.”  The story centers on three people.  The first, Leo Gursky, is an aged Manhattan locksmith who, during his youth in Poland wrote a novel, “The History of Love,” inspired by his love for a girl from his village; he lost both the girl and the manuscript.  The second, Alma Singer, is a 14-year old Brooklynite, named for the female characters in The History of Love.   Alma’s memories of her late father take the form of a fixation on survival techniques.  The third, Zvi Litvinoff, an old friend of Gursky’s in Poland and like Gursky, a Holocaust survivor, connects them. 

At the center of each of these lives is a history of loss, a search for a father, a son, a lover, and an affirmation of the compensation for loss through exercise of the imagination.  The Kirkus review concludes “a most unusual and original piece of fiction—and not to be missed.”

Novelist Nicole Krauss writes sophisticated and thoughtful psychological fiction. Her books frequently depict psychologically traumatized characters who rediscover forgotten memories and haunting pasts. The intricate plots often feature stories-within-stories, abrupt shifts in perspective, and unusual links between characters, such as the central writing desk that joins the narratives in her novel Great House. Krauss' prose is elegant, lyrical, and vividly descriptive -- readers may want to pore over each sentence, especially since the stories are leisurely paced and driven more by atmosphere, imagery, and emotional intensity than by action. Start with: The history of love.


Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer
Great House by Nicole Krauss
When God was a Rabbit by S. Winman
Case Histories by Kate Atkinson
The Sea by John Banville
Three Junes by Julia Glass
Housekeeping by Marilynne Robinson

Grace O’Connor, West Islip Public Library

Close My Eyes by Sophie McKenzie

Is a psychological thriller in which Gen Loxley, a writer, is trying to scrap her life back together after giving birth to a still-born daughter, Beth, eight years earlier.  At the time of the birth Gen was sedated and when she awoke her husband, Art, told her that the child had been born deformed and still-born.  Since Gen never got to see her child she fostered the idea that her daughter was not dead and this kernel of doubt has haunted her for eight years.  One day a stranger comes to the door and tells Gen that her child was not still-born and is very much alive, words which Gen has been hoping to hear all these years.  Gen resurrects her attempt to find her daughter and begins to suspect her husband but cannot understand why he would lie about their child and why would he be part of such a diabolic deception.   I was ultimately disappointed in the denouement of this thriller, the plot development was so good and then it was too farfetched to be believable. I checked on Good Reads and the reviews were literally all over the place, from those that said simply “WOW” to those who gave it “One Star.” It is worth reading but peeters out at the end.

Author - Sophie McKenzie
Sophie lives in London and discovered writing as a second career when she was made redundant (translation: she was laid off from her job). Her debut novel Girl Missing is a Young Adult Mystery and garnered many awards when it was published in 2006. Since then she has written numerous novels for children and teens.  Close My Eyes is her first novel for adults. 

Peggy McCarthy, Commack Library

Want Not by Jonathan Miles

If you’re interested in the gap between the haves and the have-nots or are looking for literary fiction to spark a book discussion, consider Want Not.

When down-and-out Talmadge, his girlfriend Micah, and friend Matty reach Manhattan, they settle in a squat and dumpster dive for their vegan dinner.  Meanwhile, a college professor on his way home accidentally kills a deer and remorsefully butchers it with the aid of the jobless kid next door. 
In a tony suburb, Dave displays the overpriced status symbols he earns by swindling strapped debtors.  Their stories collide when Matty makes a misguided attempt to improve his situation, Micah has a miscarriage, and Dave’s spoiled daughter Alexis bears an unwanted child.

 Jackie Malone, North Bellmore Public Library

The Abominable by Dan Simmons

The British Mount Everest expedition began in 1922, looking to be the first to summit the mountain.  The feat was not accomplished until 1953; the expedition’s ninth attempt.

The Abominable is Simmons’ fictitious account of three climbers’ Everest attempt in 1925 after real-life mountaineers George Mallory and Sandy Irvine disappeared in their attempt.  The inclusion of actual events and people of the time make the book read like a memoir.  

Narrated by Jake Perry, he and two other rogue climbers, Richard Deacon and Jean-Claude Clairoux, attain funds for their summit attempt by promising Lady Bromley that they will search for her nephew, who disappeared on the mountain the previous year.  But before they can even start the climb, Simmons describes in great detail all the preparation, supplies, and gear they will need.  The three also explain how they make their own gear, how it is used, and have discussions concerning climbing techniques with other real-life climbers.

As if climbing Everest isn’t challenging enough, about two-thirds of the way through the book, it becomes a mystery/thriller, as the Yeti (abominable snowmen) apparently attack one of the camps, killing most of the sherpas. 

When the climbers find Bromley’s body with a bullet hole, they realize that he did not die an accidental death, but was murdered.   Now the three are being chased up the mountain by a team of Nazi’s with machine guns (the “yeti”).  Will they escape the murderers and the mountain in order to prove the murder?

An exciting tale of adventure, mystery, myth, and perseverance.

Read-alikes:  The Terror (2007), by Dan Simmon
Into Thin Air (1997), Jon Krakauer
Rough Passage to London: a sea captain’s tale (2013), by Robin Lloyd

About the Author:
Simmons was born in 1948 in Peoria, Illinois, and now lives in Colorado with his wife.  He received his B.A. in English from Wabash College and won a national Phi Beta Kappa Award for excellence in fiction, journalism, and art. 

Lori Ludlow, Babylon Public Library