A couple of months ago, one of my trusty literary friends with whom I often share must-read titles told me about seeing ‘everyone’ carrying this novel around last fall. So she decided to see for herself what the hubbub was about. Once she started, she confessed, she couldn’t put One down.
“[O]n a windless night in the summer of 1983,” the accidental death of a 10-year-old girl who was inexplicably walking on a dark country road far past bedtime, alters lives forever. Nick, in the front passenger seat, is the first to see her but says nothing, cocooned in his drug-induced haze. His sister, Alice, is the one who futilely goes for help. Their sister Carmen, whose wedding the siblings have just left, is the one to witness the aftermath. “‘Because of the accident, we’re not just separate numbers. When you add us up, you always have to carry the one.’”
Over the decades that follow, “the one” is never far. Nick, a brilliant astrophysicist, will alternate between being a rock-star academic and a pathetic addict. Alice, who becomes a world-renowned artist even as she hides away her very best work, desperately cleaves to the fickle lover she met on that fateful night. Carmen, who avoided the fatal physical impact, still can’t escape the death-does-not-part haunting, as her 1983 marriage falls apart, and all her devoted activism is never enough to melt her overly-self-sufficient (lonely) shell. Named after opera characters by a father who wanted to “show off his erudition,” the siblings are seemingly predestined to play out larger-than-life fates.
Go ahead, call me a ‘me, too’-lemming’: once I started, I greedily kept the headset stuck in my ears (Renee Raudman narrates with just the right balance of gentleness and urgency). Thanks to extra (running) miles and too many loads of laundry, I only needed a day to finish, but this will be one to carry for a while yet to come.