A disparate group of twenty-somethings, bound alternately by family, love, or lust, drives off into the night after a wedding--a little high, a little drunk, a little hazy with sleep--and a little girl must pay for their bad judgment with her life. As the novel follows the wedding-goers through the next few decades, their lives riddled with guilt and recrimination, three siblings search for meaning (and, perhaps, redemption) in vastly different ways: through art, social justice, and addiction. Along the way, Anshaw demonstrates she's at equal ease descending into the maelstrom of drugged delirium as she is scaling the heights of the grander moment of human existence. In short, she's brilliant at making these flawed and damaged characters compulsively readable and real.
I've included some of my dog-eared passages here. Some are insightful, some are great descriptions, and some are just plain eerie because of how well she nails humanity's impulses, both low and high:
p. 31 "They all watched him go down. Everyone was tacitly deferring to some universal law that, while his daughter lay in the hospital morgue, a father was allowed to punch out the guy lounging around in the wedding dress."
p.133, at a a traditional hammam in Paris: "They [the bathers] came in an amazing variety of sizes, from cigaratte-thin women to women larger than any Carmen had ever seen. Women who, when naked, looked like giant soft-serve sculptures, their bodies great, graduated overlapping fountains of flesh."
p. 171, where siblings Nick and Alice are eating dinner out: "He picked up his menu and scrutinized it for a long time. Whatever he'd loaded up on in the john was kicking in, he had pumped up from cold to hot, dropped from agitated to dreamy. He sat a while without speaking. When he finally said something, what he said was 'coconut.' Like this counted as conversation, or he had just taken conversation to some higher plane where everything was encrypted and compressed. While Alice was still working the old-fashioned way with sentences."
p. 211, Carmen on September 11, 2001 "By mid-afternoon, Carmen was sifting the text for the subtext...Pretty soon, they'll get the President ready for his close-up to congratulate us for being Americans. This huge unprecedented, unmanageable mess, all the complexity behind it--they're already starting to manage it. They're making theater out of pure horror so we can watch the unwatchable and then get back to the mall."