Carew is a natural storyteller, and each of these tales works like a perfectly paced standup routine, punctuated by some gorgeous phrase-making: the “eerie shuddery whiteness” of mating moths that “look like Rorschach blots”, or the strange sensation of intimacy we experience when reading a good book, “a kind of one-to-one whispering”. It’s hard to make writing look this easy, but Carew’s stories have the knack of easing the reader happily from page to page, leaving us squirming at the situations she finds herself in while secretly hoping that she won’t escape them just yet.
For all this, Quicksand Tales has none of the emotional jeopardy, the sniping, silence and chaos of Dadland. And, as with most family accounts, honed in the retelling, you sometimes feel that “you just had to have been there” to get it.
But Carew does excel at pinpointing the disjointedness between the life we boast about and the messy lives we actually end up living.