Please don 't hate me here because I really am trying to be honest, but I actually finished this book a few days after Christmas. And I loved it, but I didn't have a computer that I could travel with at the time, so instead of writing my review then, I just scribbled down a few notes on a scrap piece of paper that I found. I saved that paper, and it has been tacked to a cork board above my desk for these past few months, so now's the time when it finally gets put to good use. It's about time, Taylor!
Carry Me Away by Robb Grindstaff
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.
In addition to a career as a newspaper editor, publisher, and manager, I’ve written fiction most of my life. The newspaper biz has taken my family and me from Phoenix, Arizona, to small towns in North Carolina and Texas, and from seven years in Washington, D.C., to five years in Asia. Born and raised a small-town kid, I’m as comfortable in Tokyo or Tuna, Texas. I now reside in a small community in Wisconsin where I manage the business operations of a daily newspaper. The variety of places I’ve lived and visited serve as settings for the characters who invade my head.
I’ve had a dozen short stories published in several print anthologies and e-zines, and several articles on the craft of writing fiction. My first novel, Hannah’s Voice, debuted January 15, 2013, and two more novels are in the works for 2013-14.
I also edit fiction and non-fiction books for authors from around the world. It helps that I’m fluent in five languages: U.S. English, U.K. English, Canadian English, and Australian English, plus my native language, Texan.
Hannah's Voice, Robb Grindstaff's first novel, was the best book I'd read all year, but that's not true anymore. Carry Me Away takes the cake," but that doesn't exactly work now, considering that it's no longer 2013. I can, however, still say that Carry Me Away blew every other book out of the water for me that year.
This is a story about how to not just live life, but to love it. And as cheesy as that sounds, it still works. Carrie's life was taken from her before she even had the chance to begin living it....
.... and when she woke up, completing that stolen life with the little time she had left was her only goal. She rushed to hit those major mile markers: finishing college, falling in love, and returning back to visit her grandmother in Japan. Her life became consumed by those goals, yet as she hit each one, she never got any closer to feeling alive again.
So she kept on like that, refusing to die yet still never learning how to live. With everything she did, she was still consumed with the knowledge that her death was coming for her soon. And that was all she defined herself by.
But then she made it another week. Then a month, then a year, and it kept on going until her death sentence finally lifted. Since she was twelve years old, all she had been trying to do was make it to the finish line. And for all those years, that was all she was able to see. When you've been told your entire life that you're going to die, what are you supposed to do when you finally realize that you don't know how to live?
I love this book. I thought that I loved Grindstaff's first novel, Hannah's Voice, but I REALLY love Carry Me Away. Neither of his books are anything like what I typically read, yet they blow me away each and every time. Grindstaff's ability to capture the minds of his characters when they're young girls still remains unparalleled, and what I once thought was a one-time gift actually turns out to be a slightly concerning affinity for unlocking the minds of the world's most disturbed creatures. I should know. I used to be one.
In all honesty, though, there's nothing else out there quite like what Grindstaff is able to deliver here. These coming of age stories after a great personal tragedy are pitched all of the time, but they have always seemed to fall flat for me. Not once did I think that here. And if Grindstaff can get me, a girl who usually only reads books packed to the brim with action and comedy, to actually want to read a story this deep not once but twice, then that should tell you more than anything else that this book is really something special.