This is the second book by Robb Grindstaff, and his most recent release – just go, buy it. You WILL NOT be disappointed. In fact, I am on my 3rd re-read of this title right now – I just don’t want to put it down.
An offer to review Robb Grindstaff’s second title had me jumping at the chance, since I loved his first book, Hannah’s Voice. In this story, we meet Carrie, youngest child of a Marine Corps father and Japanese mother, military brat, outspoken, fanciful and finding her way. At twelve, she and her brother are in a car accident: while she is the lone survivor, her medical issues and multiple physical issues isolate her, making much of her life an internal one: not the dreams of dates, dances and weddings she once shared with her best friend.
As a child of “nowhere” the sense of understanding and empathy that Grindstaff has for these military brats: always the new kid in school, never having anywhere feel like home, every place brings new customs and ways of doing things. While Carrie has medical issues that have kept her out of school, and essentially friendless, her one tie to her life before is her best friend, who is living the life the two had dreamed of on weekly sleepovers.
Burdened with her imminent death, she sets goals: going to high school, going to university, visiting her brother’s grave, even planning her own funeral and making it happy, since her mother had too much sadness already. A story that will tear at your heart even as you marvel at the strength and understanding this child displays, as she grasps and struggles to achieve something before she dies.
With consummate skill, Grindstaff gives us the “hidden Carrie” the one who mouths off like a typical teen in her own inner voice, but guilt of the burdens keep the words mostly unspoken. The sense of not-belonging and unfamiliar customs and ideas that all children who have followed a parent in the military or diplomatic corps can understand, it also holds relevance for the ‘new kid’ in the class, grade or room.
Poignant and touching yet holding a core of brutal honesty, Carrie will burrow into your heart as you marvel at the lack of overly maudlin or dramatic emotion surrounding a certain end. Carrie manages to face and confront loss, lonliness and impending death without dipping into self-pity, her approach is more direct in tackling each speedbump as one more item on the ‘get done’ list. The awareness yet refusal to acknowledge the steady decline of her parent’s relationship as they struggle with her independent and determined decisions, gracefully show her guilt for their troubles as she tries to do all she can without their help and input: to give them something to be proud of.
It is sad when the epitaph of a life is written before the life truly starts, but instead of the sad moments becoming the sum total of this story: it becomes a beautiful testament to the strength of an individual, and their determination to make a mark. Yes, Carrie is fictional, but so wholly real and complete that she easily could be the child in the house in the corner, or the one in line at the PX. Grindstaff did not disappoint with this second book, and another is added to my best of the year shelf. Take a chance on this title, it will be a story you will not soon forget, and will read repeatedly for the hidden gems within.
Title: Carry Me Away
Author: Robb Grindstaff
Genre: Literary Fiction
Get Your Copy: Amazon ♦ iTunes ♦ Downpour ♦ IndieBound ♦ Book Depository ♦ Google ♦Audible
Carrie Destin, a biracial military brat, learns the injuries she sustained in a car accident will prove fatal before she reaches adulthood. She accelerates her life and sets aggressive goals: college, connecting with her Japanese roots, and the all-consuming desire to find her soul mate. A kid from nowhere, she travels the world with her Marine father and Japanese mother.
Facing an abbreviated life with a brash attitude and a biting, sometimes morbid sense of humor, Carrie races to graduate high school at age fifteen. College is her marker of adulthood, when she can smoke in public and order dessert before dinner. She tosses out her adolescent wedding scrapbook for a funeral plan. A teenage crush on Paul, a family friend and a widower seventeen years her senior, develops into a fantasy that takes on a life of its own.
As she outlives the original prognosis into her early twenties, her life goals evolve—always short-term. The longing for love stays constant, yet she walls herself off from others. Relationships end in betrayal, abandonment and violence. When love reveals itself, she pulls away, fearing that an early meeting with Death is on the horizon.
Carrie’s frantic desire to experience life before it ends spirals out of control, leading to a physical and emotional collapse. Her grandmother’s wisdom points her toward acceptance, but first she must break through her walls before she can give the gift of ‘til-death-do-us-part.
A copy of this title was provided via Author for purpose of honest review. I was not compensated for this review: all conclusions are my own responsibility.