Thanks so much to Algonquin Books for inviting me on the book tour for Carry the Dog by Stephanie Gangi and for the advanced reading copy which publishes tomorrow, Tuesday, November 2, 2021.
When Bea Seger and her older twin brothers were growing up, their chores were unlike that of their peers—they were expected to pose for their mother, photographer Miriam Marx. Taken over a period of years, the series of photographs became known as the Marx Nudes, and while they made Miriam famous, they also created strife in the family not to mention drew the attention of authorities. By the end of the 1960s, the family had shattered, two dead and three estranged.
Now, on the cusp of sixty, with two failed marriages—to the same man—and no career to speak of, Bea reluctantly agrees to meetings with a Hollywood producer and a MOMA curator to discuss projects with Miriam at the center. Both, however, require her to visit the Marx “archive,” a storage unit outside the city.
Previously, many of Bea’s memories had been as locked up as the prints, negatives, and memorabilia at StoreSpace. As she faces the truth about her past trauma with her family and her ex-husband, aging rocker Gary Going (now Gone), Bea begins to make peace with her aging body and her future.
While Carry the Dog’s plot relates to the fate of the archives and what actually happened when the photos were created, the more compelling aspect of the novel is Bea—and how being forced to be her mother’s model shaped her—and her character arc. At times, she was absolutely infuriating and her own worst enemy. At the same time, it was impossible, for me at least, not to have deep affection for her despite her flaws and to root for her as she struggled. I especially found the reflections on aging and memory resonant. The ending, too, was perfectly satisfying, even triumphant, despite the difficult topics.
TW: suicide, miscarriage, child abuse