the ending of carry the one

I can see that some readers have come here looking for illumination on the ending of cto. what I would say is that the last word of the book offers a clue.


  1. i thought that nick somehow got those clothes and shoes so he could pass them on to the little girl, who is clearly “the one” olivia meets at the end.

  2. No profound insights here. I just finished CTO (work and life became distractions, lol) and discovered I loved it in all it’s simultaneous regularness and profundity.

  3. I made the mistake of reading the last seven pages of the novel at 6:30 a.m. Now, I must leave thehouse in ten minutes to meet my friends for a run, and I shake myself free from the ending. I am trying to follow the advice of Virginia Woolf in her essay, “What the novelist gives us,” but, still, revisiting the last word, I am left disquieted. Maybe a few miles will help.

  4. I just finished it. and I am WOWED. So smart, so knowing so modern, so American, so very very funny. Ms Anshaw, you are a master at dialogue. The structure must have been a risk for you, but damn, it works. This is story telling of the highest caliber. I was totally and completely ENGAGED in the reading, my attention never flatered, the prose kept me hyper-alert and compelled to turn the page. i just loved it.

    As for the ending, there is more than 1 little girl with a green plaid shirt in the world, and so I see that child as a suggestion of Casey, a symbol perhaps, a carrying on, but for me the important element is not that there is a child there in a green plaid shirt, but that that child reaches out to support Olivia, straightens her out, gets her back on her 2 feet. It is a kind of absolution, an echo of Casey’s mother’s finals remarks to Nick.


    1. first michael, thanks for your praise. it means a lot to me to hear from readers who so thoroughly get the book.
      as for the ending, yours is a good interpretation. again, not exactly what I intended, but good books should be rooms that allow each reader to come in and interpret what they find inside in an individual way.

  5. I saw the ending as a dream. It’s one way that Casey lives on, in the dreams of those who were there when she died. If I’m right about this, you gave us a little clue a few chapters before, in Nick’s conversation wtih Casey’s mom. I’m thinking it’s probably Olivia’s dream, though technically it could be Alice’s or Carmen’s, or even Tom’s or Maude’s. But probably Olivia’s.

    1. interesting interpretation. really, the ending belongs to you, however you interpret it. I would say my intention was to indicate that information travels along many different circuits.

  6. Carol, I read Aquamarine last summer, and I absolutely loved it. Last night, I just finished Carry the One, and you have absolutely taken my breath away. The review you posted by Zachary Houle was right on — I couldn’t agree more with his perceptions of this work of art. I didn’t have an exact interpretation of your ending, but I have been enjoying reading fellow readers’ takes on it. I will be eagerly anticipating your next release!! Do you have anything in the works?

  7. I was riveted by your story, Carol. I loved every character, every sentence that toppled me onto the floor in laughter, and every sentence that made my jaw drop. THANK YOU. My mother died at 102 years. A new woman moved into her room at the assisted living place where my Mum lived for ten years. The woman came to the staff to complain about a woman who sat at the foot of her bed folding laundry. Would the staff please tell her not to come into her private apartment. She proceeded to describe my Mother to a T. I feel that on the other side, a person can choose to manifest back on the earth plane. Perhaps they are still very attached, perhaps they want to visit. Who really knows for sure.
    I would like to think Casey returned to show Olivia that she was fine. Alive in fact. And that the time for self flagellation was over. As someone else said here…Casey assists, she is present, and she is not angry because she is not really dead.

    Your book and its characters are on my bookshelf permanently, sitting next to Broken For You, Ahab’s Wife, and The Road Home.
    Thank you again for the most engaging story. I learned so much about life, and most importantly, I learned about how to live.

    1. suzy, yours is the closest to my intention. casey has slipped from wherever she is now, back into our world to pay olivia a brief visit in order to tell her she [olivia] is all right now, that she [casey] is letting them all go.
      but my intent is just that. what readers take from the ending, or from the whole book for that matter, belongs to them.
      and thanks for your kind words.

  8. I have just finished the book and have read the last paragraph over and over, in light of Ms. Anshaw’s “clues”–that the word “here” is significant, and that “information travels along many different circuits.” I am still unsure of the author’s intentions, and so wish I knew what they were! Might you enlighten us? It wouldn’t foreclose the possibility of others’ interpretations…

  9. Carol: I just loved this book. I plan to go to the library and get the your other books. As someone who lives ‘between planes’ I know that ‘Casey’ in the ending was really Casey….just popping in to say hi, and as she said to Olivia: “There. You’re ok now.”
    such a beautiful book.

  10. Thank you for Carry the One. I thought it was a beautiful and humane novel that will stay with me for a long time. I am now a fan and want to read all of your books.

    I also thought that the ending was pretty clear, that Olivia was going to be all right, reinforced by Nick’s conversation with Casey’s mother who senses that Casey has let them go. Whether Casey was actually present as a ghost or not is unimportant.

  11. I’ve been a fan of yours for years. I just finished the book. I rapidly read it in one day, because I couldn’t wait to finish it. I thought that the ending was eloquently understated. I also was happy, that Alice finally found lasting love. Or at least, the hope of having it. I look forward to your next novel. Thanks!

    1. I’m happy you enjoyed it in a day, but also hope you’ll find a time to go back and read it more slowly. I put, like, 7 years into this book. you might have brushed past something good.

  12. Carol, it’s a compliment to your superb skills that I couldn’t put it down. I plan on reading it slower next time. (Said with a smile.)

  13. Hi Ms Anshaw. I’m a literature student from Malaysia. I chose your novel ‘Carry the One’ for my novel class. I would like to ask you, is there any special or specific event that you used to relate to any scene in the novel? because i was asked by my lecturer to relate that. Btw, i love your novel, very much. Thank you, take care. 🙂

    1. aziz, it is usually easier for me to make up scenes, but sometimes I’m in the middle of an experience that’s so vivid or beautiful or horrifying or unusual that I have to put it into my fiction. One such event was my visit to a steam bath in paris, which turned into the chapter “hammam.” another was the way new years eve is celebrated in amsterdam. and thanks for letting me know you like the book.

  14. One thing that I haven’t seen anyone address in this thread is how that end scene is an exact match for Alice’s last Casey painting!! It made me wonder if her other paintings were representing other significant moments of emotional release/forgiveness for the other characters, if Casey visited someone next to a pickup with a carton of milk, or in a field, etc.

  15. I so enjoyed your book that I am going to recommend it to my book club. The characters came to life for me and I was eager to find out their outcomes along the way. As I read, I experienced many lol moments along with those that gave me some anxiety. Unlike one of your other readers, I took my time reading the book and didn’t want it to end. Thanks so much for providing your readers with a wonderful novel.

  16. I got to this blog because I wanted to see what others thought the ending meant. What a treat to be able to “chat” with you! My mom (former English teacher) recommended this book and now both my sister and I have read it. My mom who is 88 and has an amazing critical mind for literature absolutely loved it as did I. She and I also did not want it to end. I dragged it out over several days! The way you write is so incredibly vivid and unique. We are there with the characters experiencing everything they do. I felt so bad about Nick. Although I don’t 100% agree that the father is totally to blame. Some people can pull themselves out of adversity. It takes a certain type of will that Nick just did not possess. I just loved all the characters. I’m excited to read more of your novels!

    1. jane, thanks so much for telling me all of this. unlike mick jagger, I cannot immediately know of/howmy work affects anyone. so I’m glad you and your sister and your mother all enjoyed it. I’m seeing the same copy going around from hand to hand. if any cousins want in, maybe tell them to buy their own.

  17. To me “here” is in the last painting Alice made. The phone was why she was holding although Alice did not know it at the time. And the moss covered stone is from earlier.

    1. yes, alice, in pre-cellphone days, paints what she thinks might be a shell by casey’s ear. the scene is what casey told her to paint, and in the book’s final page, she has come back “here” to release olivia [and the others] from the burden of carrying her with them.

      at least that’s what I intended. I think the story is big enough that readers might go inside and find different meanings for themselves.

  18. How ironic Nick was the one with the innate understanding of time and space and their many planes. That he had the power to heal and couldn’t see it. Brilliant.

    I loved this book: the characters, the language, the journey through time, the painting and astronomy, the way people grow into lives that have been profoundly disrupted, either through their own actions or those close to them. Very powerful. I’m looking forward to reading more of your work.

    (And I loved the “clue”–the last word. It was so perfect I had to go and see what the last one is in my work in progress. Thank you for that in addition to the story.)

    1. mary, thanks so much. like every writer, I enjoy praise, but even better is hearing from a reader who really gets what I am trying to do. I can hear the small click of connection.

  19. The ending was absolutely perfect. I had to read it 3 times … But even the first time I read it, I pictured Alice’s painting…the movement of the tropical plants that Alice was trying to get perfect. The moss. And that she’s telling Olivia that it will be ok. The last words too – that The girl is telling someone on the phone that she’s talking to someone who’s “here”, whereas Casey is not “here.” She’s letting go and wanting the others to let go too.

    Loved the book, loved the characters, loved that it’s about life. It’s like looking into the history of an intertwined group of friends and family.

  20. I’m thinking that at the end Casey has returned from wherever she is (not ‘here’ where she is visiting Olivia) and she wants to right Olivia in the place where she has stumbled… over her body… and help to put her right. Wherever she comes from, she still exists, she knows that Olivia has fully expressed remorse, and she forgives her.

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