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The Carrying: Book summary and reviews of The Carrying by Ada Limón

The Carrying


by Ada Limón

The Carrying by Ada Limón X
The Carrying by Ada Limón
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Book Summary

From National Book Award and National Book Critics Circle Award winner Ada Limón comes The Carrying―her most powerful collection yet.

Vulnerable, tender, acute, these are serious poems, brave poems, exploring with honesty the ambiguous moment between the rapture of youth and the grace of acceptance. A daughter tends to aging parents. A woman struggles with infertility―"What if, instead of carrying / a child, I am supposed to carry grief?"―and a body seized by pain and vertigo as well as ecstasy. A nation convulses: "Every song of this country / has an unsung third stanza, something brutal." And still Limón shows us, as ever, the persistence of hunger, love, and joy, the dizzying fullness of our too-short lives. "Fine then, / I'll take it," she writes. "I'll take it all."

In Bright Dead Things, Limón showed us a heart "giant with power, heavy with blood"―"the huge beating genius machine / that thinks, no, it knows, / it's going to come in first." In her follow-up collection, that heart is on full display―even as The Carrying continues further and deeper into the bloodstream, following the hard-won truth of what it means to live in an imperfect world.

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Book Awards

  • award image National Book Critics Circle Award, 2018


Media Reviews

"Starred Review. Gorgeous, thought-provoking ... This fearless collection shows a poet that can appreciate life's surprises." - Publishers Weekly

"Starred Review. A stunning collection... . Limón writes movingly about finding the spectacular in the everyday... . A reverent, extraordinary take on the world. Don't miss this life-affirming collection." - Library Journal

"A master of examining themes from unexpected angles, Limón rotates her topics in kaleidoscopic turns... . Page after page, this proves to be a startling and tender, magnificent collection." - Booklist

"Extraordinary ... you realize that you witnessed something mesmerizing." - Foreword Reviews

"Limón has a novelistic knack for scene, and the narrative lyrics in this remarkable collection, her fifth, could stand as compressed stories about anxiety and the body." - New York Times

"Exquisite ... Limón is always a careful witness, accurately recording the moment, rather than trying to transcend it. Evocative dreams and pivotal memories help make this collection a powerful example of how to carry the things that define us without being broken by them." - Washington Post

"[In The Carrying] the National Book Award-nominated poet pens paeans to the world's limitless capacity to astonish." - O, The Oprah Magazine

"Ada Limón is a poet of ecstatic revelation. Her poetry feels fast, full of detail, often playful, and driven by a conversational voice. This book represents a powerful deepening of the poet's perspective ... It's a book of deep wisdom and urgent vulnerability, driven by language that feels not only beautiful but permanent and powerfully wrought, like a mountain. It leads you to the beautiful bright mountaintop of language, then guides you gently down into the rocky valleys of a conscious human heart." - The Guardian (UK)

"Masterful ... a piercing look into the nature of pain and impermanence... . It is a paean to nature itself, to the peace in knowing it's both part of us and greater than us―especially when everything else in the world can seem like it's falling apart." - BuzzFeed

"With each poem in her new collection, The Carrying, Limón counterbalances her most paralyzing fears with her ability to find small twinges of hope... . Each poem is a widening lens of the world, an unburdening of the things we carry deep within ourselves." - Paris Review

"The Carrying is about the contradictory joys and burdens we all carry... . The societal connection between womanhood, motherhood and power is at the core of her work... . For Limón, carrying both the joys and sorrows of a child-free life is a testament to the human ability to exist with many things piled on our shoulders at once." - PBS NewsHour

"Tender, illuminating... . The anxiety of all of life's realities permeates Limón's collection, which makes the work feel piercingly of the moment." - San Francisco Chronicle

"Ada Limón's pitch-perfect fifth collection, The Carrying, is full of poems to savor and share... . She writes with remarkable directness about painful experiences normally packaged in euphemism and, in doing so, invites the readers to enter a world where abundant joy exists alongside and simultaneous to loss." - Minneapolis Star Tribune

"[Ada Limón's] new collection is her best yet, a much needed shot of if not hope, then perseverance amidst much uncertainty." - PR

"For a book metered by grief, there's a lot of love here―that shouldn't come as a surprise, considering Limón's stylistic control and skill... . Limón is very good at pacing her poems to leave us satisfied but also curious... . One of the best books of the year." - The Millions

"Lyrical, tender, and knowing ... Ada Limón's poetry connects the personal and the universal." - Garden & Gun

"With the knowing directness of a letter, Limón's poems speak to the marrow of our everyday condition... The Carrying is a vital collection for a noisy, brutal time. The power of Limón's unflinching examination of grief and loss is only surpassed by her love of beauty and compassion." - BOMB Magazine

"[Limón's] poems come closer than any poems have to Annie Dillard's essays... . She's that rarest of beasts, a poet who can take you by surprise." - New Criterion

"Deeply intimate ... A poetry collection to help you make sense of the world right now... . It's a spinning world that, increasingly, is turning to poetry like Limón's to make sense of ― or, at least, to assuage the grief of ― it all." - Bustle

"What drives her poems―what makes her new collection, The Carrying, so moving and masterful―is her dexterity with voice and diction and her giftedness with metaphor...The poems are keen reflections of a mind constantly at work, seeing and wondering and moving toward meaning but not always the meaning to which the poem and its reader thought they were headed." - Poets & Writers

"Ada Limon's new poems in The Carrying are like a winter garden―somber, full of grief and patience, suddenly visible lines from here to there. To watch a poet in full possession of her power tending the earth with this kind of care feels like an inspiration that comes with a chastened edge: time, they remind, is all we have." - Literary Hub

"All of Limón's books have found a home on my bookshelf, each volume a heartfelt reckoning of what it is be alive. In her collections, I find a grace that demonstrates her versatility and wisdom as well as a 'surrendering.' She explains that the central question of her work is, 'How do we live in the world?' Yet she's a poet as comfortable with questions as with answers." - Guernica

"[Ada Limón] might be the mom of Latinx poetry, and I mean that in the best way possible... . Límon is talented in a way that's both intimidating and inspiring, and is definitely a strong pillar of contemporary poetry." - Book Riot

"Ada Limón's The Carrying delves into the deeply personal as the speaker uncovers what might be her infertility... . The book points us to look at all the things we ask of our bodies, all the things we ask it to carry through this remarkable and unstable world." - Chicago Review of Books

"Wisely observant ... Limón's poems personify the twinned-narrative of despair and tenacity that has become part of America's current political and social reality. Indeed, The Carrying is a spark of courage in our dark and troubled times." - PANK

"Limón's work is a reminder that you can write poetry about big ideas." - America Magazine

"Superb... . Although the subject matter is often mournful, the endurance of nature also comes to light. Even though an individual may perish, there is consistency in the life cycles of bumblebees, dandelions, and race horses―all of which are examined with gorgeous language and imagery that makes Limón's collection hard to put down, even in the moments that cause a deep, sorrowful ache." - Chicago Review of Books

"Ada Limón teaches me that language can still surprise me. She shows me that the juxtaposition of words not previously joined can catch me off-guard, make me feel that shimmer of resonance, of curiosity." - Signature

"In her dazzling, precise, transformative collection, The Carrying, Ada Limón offers us meditations on mortality, womanhood, the body, and that which grows in the earth, all the while slyly positing: How we should treat each other in this precarious life? Like humans, is her answer. Like humans."- Jami Attenberg, author of The Middlesteins

"In her powerful new collection, Ada Limón asks: 'What if, instead of carrying // a child, I am supposed to carry grief?' And later: 'isn't there still something singing?' To which I say: yes. In these poems, joy and longing and grief sing with a music that―regardless of what I am burdened or blessed to carry―makes me want to live passionately and fully in the difficult world. The Carrying is a gift." - Natasha Trethewey

"It is no wonder that Ada Limón's wonderful new book, The Carrying, is full of goldfinches and strawberries and dandelions and hostas and, as she writes, 'all good things that come from the ground.' It's also no wonder that it's full of the life that death makes. And the living that dying is. For this book is a garden. And like a garden, it will nourish you. It will feed you." - Ross Gay

This information about The Carrying was first featured in "The BookBrowse Review" - BookBrowse's membership magazine, and in our weekly "Publishing This Week" newsletter. Publication information is for the USA, and (unless stated otherwise) represents the first print edition. The reviews are necessarily limited to those that were available to us ahead of publication. If you are the publisher or author and feel that they do not properly reflect the range of media opinion now available, send us a message with the mainstream reviews that you would like to see added.

Any "Author Information" displayed below reflects the author's biography at the time this particular book was published.

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More Information

Ada Limón is the author of four books of poetry, including Bright Dead Things, which was named a finalist for the National Book Award, the National Book Critics Circle Award, and the Kingsley Tufts Award. Her work has appeared in the New Yorker, the New York Times, and American Poetry Review, among others. She lives in both Kentucky and California.

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