House of Anansi Press

Carry Me

Written by Peter Behrens

Published February 20, 2016 | ISBN 9781770899995
FICTION / Literary

Cover of Carry Me

Regular price $32.00 CAD

448 pages | 9 in × 6 in
Print Format

Also Available as an Ebook

About this book

Carry Me

Peter Behrens

Reader's Guide ↓

A 2017 Vine Awards for Canadian Jewish Literature Finalist

A 2016 Jewish Book Award Finalist

Billy Lange is born in 1909 on the Isle of Wight, England, where his father is the skipper of a racing yacht belonging to a wealthy German-Jewish baron. As a child, Billy is entranced by the baron’s daughter, the elusive and willful Karin von Weinbrenner. After the First World War, Karin and Billy are reunited on the baron’s Frankfurt estate, where they bond over their fascination with the Wild West novels of Karl May, the most popular author in the German language.

Over the years, Billy and Karin’s childhood friendship deepens and transforms into a complex love affair with extraordinarily high stakes. Coming of age in Frankfurt and Berlin, Billy and Karin share a passion for speed, jazz, and nightclubs. As society loses its moral bearings and Germany marches toward the Second World War, they also share a dream of escape — from Germany, from history — to El Llano Estacado, May’s richly imagined New Mexico landscape.

An intriguing cast of characters braid this harrowing story together, transporting the reader from a golden Edwardian summer on the Isle of Wight, to London under Zeppelin attack, to Ireland on the brink of its War of Independence, and at last to Germany during the darkening Weimar period.

Brilliantly conceived, deeply researched, and profoundly moving, Carry Me is an unusual love story, an historical epic, and a lucid meditation on Europe’s violent twentieth century.

About the Author

Peter Behrens

PETER BEHRENS’ first novel, The Law of Dreams, won the Governor General’s Literary Award for Fiction and has been published in nine languages. His collection of short stories, Travelling Light, was reissued in 2013, and his second novel, The O’Briens, was published in 2011. His stories and essays have appeared in the Atlantic Monthly, Tin House, Brick, Best Canadian Stories, Best Canadian Essays, and many anthologies. Behrens is a native of Montreal and was educated at Lower Canada College, Concordia University, and McGill. He has held a Wallace Stegner Fellowship in Creative Writing at Stanford University and was a Fellow at the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown, Massachusetts. He lives in Maine and Texas.

Awards and Praise



“Behrens captures his narrator’s naïveté and the casual anti-Semitism of the times with great skill and intelligence . . . as true an observation about human nature as there is.” —Dennis Bock, New York Times Book Review

“Behrens is a powerful stylist.” — Globe and Mail

“With stunning imagery and fully realized characters, Peter Behrens’ third novel is a worthy followup to The O’Briens and his critically acclaimed first novel, Law of Dreams … Timely in its depiction of North America as the mythical land of hope for so many, and timeless in its exploration of the effects of bigotry and the power of love, Carry Me is a brilliant and entertaining read.” — Winnipeg Free Press

“Carry Me is another meditation on history and destiny . . . that make[s] the past feel stunningly close at hand.” — Vogue

“Carry Me is a moving meditation on identity and belonging, and a love story to get happily lost in.” — Montreal Gazette

“[A] staggeringly epic new novel about love and loss, identity and salvation in a society in the midst of a nervous collapse. It has been a long time since I’ve become tearful at the end of a novel but I must confess to doing so reading the final pages. The fate that befalls the young lovers at the centre of Carry Me is heartbreaking — and mesmerizing.”— Toronto Star

“Vividly imagined . . . This ambitious novel provides a panoramic view of a continent and a microscopic view of two individuals hovering precariously between the two World Wars . . . Moving seamlessly back and forth between times and countries, Behrens paints a stunningly intimate portrait in wide, universal strokes.” — Booklist

“There’s no doubt about Behrens’ talent.” — Kirkus Reviews

“Behrens is so fine at both sweeping and granular evocations of history, so good at vividly and economically painting his minor players . . . [his] prose thrills to the indelible and irrevocable.” — Washington Post

“A gripping story about a harrowing time in European history… Behrens is a gifted storyteller and Carry Me is no exception. It is not only a deeply researched historical novel, but it’s also a well-crafted and true tale of people, families and love affairs.” —Vancouver Sun

“A powerful tale . . . the tension and the expertly drawn portrait of Europe at war make this novel a winner.” — Now Magazine

“Eventful . . . impressive use of the past as a mirror to the world we live in now.” — Quill & Quire

“[Carry Me] is both poetry and cartography. . . . Behrens has mined truths so skillfully that in reading they can slip by unnoticed; they’re never glaring or contrived. They leave the reader with a feeling Billy describes as he’s driving across Germany. . . . Great writing keeps readers on this threshold, in liminal space, wanting to know and understand more than literature or life will allow, anxious for the next big lesson. Carry Me is full of this kind of searching, characters looking for a way to map their lives against war and love and change.” — Portland Press Herald

“Behrens is a beautiful, lyric writer. His understanding of the age and command of it, moment to moment, is impressive . . . everything is beautiful in the details, in the smallness of personal moments even as we know that no matter how calm, how peaceful the moment, it will not last.” — Jason Sheehan, NPR

“Carry Me’s perspective on war’s tragedies is beautifully composed, and heartbreakingly credible.” — Shelf Awareness

“Behrens is a master, at home in the broad sweep of history and the intimate detail of a character’s experience. This is a novel that could be, should be, read in a hundred years.” — Jury, The Vine Awards for Canadian Jewish Literature


“[The O’Briens] is impressive in its scope and ambitious in its goals. Behrens’s writing is always tight, and some of his descriptions are flat-out jaw-dropping.” — Globe and Mail

“A distinctly twentieth-century — and decidedly Canadian — family epic . . . pitch-perfect.” — National Post

“The O’Briens is a major accomplishment” — New York Times

“Brimming with complex and nuanced characters, Behrens’s second novel lives up to the expectations set by his award-winning debut.” — Winnipeg Free Press

“Behrens’s characters are painfully real . . . the battle of the O’Brien family is as legendary and epic as any war.” — Telegraph-Journal

“A truly wonderful writer who will no doubt be dominating the literary award nomination lists this fall.” — Montreal Gazette

“Behrens’ fine writing moves readers from one decade to the next, and we become more attached to each of the characters with each passing year . . . a sweeping Canadian saga that will carry readers along.” —Vancouver Sun


Winner, Governor General’s Literary Award
Finalist, Rogers Writers’ Trust Fiction Prize
Finalist, Commonwealth Writers’ Prize (Canada and the Caribbean): Best Book
Finalist, CBA Libris Award for Fiction Book of the Year
Finalist, in Canada First Novel Award
Longlisted, IMPAC Dublin Literary Award
An Best Books of the Decade, 2000–2010 National Bestseller

“[A]bsorbing, unsparing, and beautifully written [. . .] a masterly novel.” — New York Times

“Behrens has fashioned a beautiful idiom for his book, studded with slippery archaisms and mournful, musical refrains [. . .] the language and the things it describes seem to be spun out of a single material. And we move through it as willingly, or compulsively, as the protagonist, the wind of love and hate at our backs.” — Newsday

“A work of richly empathetic imagination that reminds us once again of how powerful historical fiction can be in skilled hands. In fact, the story has a factual and emotional authenticity that calls to mind the similarly masterful debut Thomas Flanagan made with his now classic novel of Irish history, The Year of the French.” — LA Times

“The Law of Dreams rings with a strange, hard poetry, a mingling of Behrens’s rich narrative voice and scraps of startling wisdom that seem to emanate directly from Fergus’s mind [. . . ] In the life of this determined young man, Behrens illuminates one of the nineteenth century’s greatest tragedies and the massive migration it launched. A novel that animates the past this vibrantly should make volumes of mere history blush. ‘Life burns hot,’ Fergus thinks, and so do these pages.” — Washington Post Book World

“Behrens’ use of crisp dialogue clearly conveys the fear, the longing and the unbridled hope of a young man teetering on the brink between starvation and salvation. But it is in his economical narrative that Behrens truly shines. ‘Life honed to the very edge. Sharpened on a whetstone. Chopping through the days. Working time like it was a sweep of hay.’” — Winnipeg Free Press

“From a mountaintop in Ireland to the beckoning promise of America, there are scenes that will remain imprinted upon the reader’s mind. Peter Behrens is a tremendously talented writer.” — Alistair MacLeod

“An emotional epic bearing echoes of Melville and Ondaatje, conveying scents and shimmers of a vanished world under the skin of our own.” — Jonathan Lethem

“The Law of Dreams is the best literary adventure novel I’ve read since Lonesome Dove, a brilliant heart-felt celebration of the capacity of the human spirit.” — Howard Frank Mosher

  • Short-listed National Jewish Book Awards, 2016
  • Short-listed The Vine Awards for Canadian Jewish Literature, 2017