Elizabeth Evans Carter Clay: A Novel

ISBN 13: 9780060929824

Carter Clay: A Novel

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Drunk, and driving a van down a Florida highway, Carter Clay, a Vietnam vet at loose ends, irrevocably shatters the lives of the Altiz family, killing Joe and seriously injuring his wife, Katherine, and their daughter, Jersey, in a hit-and-run accident. Horrified, Clay seeks redemption, while still concealing his culpability, by becoming the questionable caretaker of the two survivors' damaged lives--eventually imposing upon them the baggage of his past and his haphazard faith in God. Suspenseful, psychologically complex, and inhabited by characters that will haunt your memory long after you have turned the last page, Carter Clay is a finely wrought tale of the frailty of identity and the possibility of redemption.

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"This is before the accident. No one is dead yet." Elizabeth Evans begins her debut novel, Carter Clay, with a prologue so chilling it's hard to imagine she'll be able to maintain the high-octane tension for another 400 pages. That she does is a testament both to her prose and to the power of her central characters: 12-year-old Jersey Alitz, her maternal grandmother, M.B., and the title character, a Vietnam veteran who is the catalyst for both tragedy and transformation.

The novel begins with a horrific accident in which Jersey is severely injured, her mother, Katherine, brain-damaged, and her father killed. The driver is Carter Clay, 42 years old and with "the face of a choirboy." This man has been sober for just a year, ever since his near-fatal stabbing while he was homeless in Sarasota, Florida. Having been given a second chance at life, he has religiously attended AA meetings, and has even come to believe that his craving for alcohol has diminished to manageable proportions: "Suffice it to say that Carter did not understand this appearance of diminution to be largely a feature of distance, as with a great warship that might be covered by the tip of your little finger when the vessel sits on the far horizon."

Then a minor accident sends him to a hospital, where a painkiller is prescribed to him that triggers those old cravings. Before long he is on a collision course, literally and spiritually, with the Alitz family. In the aftermath of the hit-and-run, M.B. reluctantly agrees to care for her injured daughter and granddaughter but soon finds she won't have to do it alone: Carter has decided he must make reparation by caring for his victims himself. But as his obsession with doing right by Katherine and Jersey grows, he may be doing more harm than good. Elizabeth Evans builds this complex and compelling tale with an authority many veteran novelists would envy. --Alix Wilber

About the Author:

Elizabeth Evans has received many grants and fellowships for her writing, including an NEA Fellowship, the James Michener Fellowship, and fellowships at Yaddo and MacDowell. She is the author of The Blue Hour and lives in Tucson, Arizona.

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Publisher: Harper, 1999
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