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Carry Me by Peter Behrens

Carry Me

Writer-in-Residence Peter Behrens (fellow 2012/13) wrote an initial 300 pages manuscript of his novel ”Carry Me” during the five months he stayed at NIAS. His research focused on the history of Germany in the 1920s and 1930s. The book was published by Pantheon Books (Feb. 2016) and House of Anansi Press (Feb. 4, 2017).

About the Book

As a society loses its moral bearings, a childhood friendship deepens into a love affair with extraordinarily high stakes. Brilliantly conceived, CARRY ME is an epic for grown-ups, an unusual love story, and a lucid meditation on Europe’s violent twentieth century.

CARRY ME is told from the perspective of Billy, born to a German father and an Irish mother who are employees on the summer estate of the German-Jewish Baron von Weinbrenner on the scenic Isle of Wight. The book’s brilliant narrative twines together the love story of Billy and Karin, the baron’s free-spirited daughter, during several crucial months in 1938, and their childhood journey, separately and together, leading up to that 1938 moment when their fates hang in the balance. Billy’s backstory takes us through England, Ireland, and Germany, where his family is deported as the political situation in 1930s Europe deteriorates. They find refuge at the Weinbrenners’ beautiful home outside Frankfurt, where Billy’s father becomes the horse trainer in the baron’s famous stables, and the teenage Billy reconnects with the seductively devil-may-care Karin. The two ride horses and shoot bow and arrows in the woods, and share the beloved Winnetou novels of Karl May, whose sere West Texas landscape becomes a powerful beacon in their relationship when they reach young adulthood, suggesting a possible path to freedom as the Germany they once knew is deteriorating rapidly. Billy, with his British passport, schemes to get Karin out of the country, and the reader almost can’t breathe, waiting for them to board a boat.


CARRY ME is one of three finalists for the 2017 Vine Awards for Canadian Jewish Literature.

“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.” —The Jury

“Peter Behrens est un maître, à l’aise aussi bien dans la fresque historique que dans l’intimité du vécu d’un personnage. Voici un roman qui pourra encore, devrait toujours être lu dans cents ans”.— Le jury.

The book was also finalist for the National (US) Jewish Book Award 2016.

CARRY ME named one of National Public Radio’s Best Books of 2016 “Great historical novels give us a god’s omnipotence. They don’t coddle but burden us with the sure knowledge that we can do nothing to alter the flow of time. And this is the inherent tragedy that lives at the heart of Carry Me, which follows the fortunes of two intermingled families through one of the most turbulent times in modern history” —Jason Sheehan, NPR

CARRY ME is “another meditation on history and destiny . . . that make[s] the past feel stunningly close at hand.” —Megan O’Grady, Vogue

“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, The New York Times Book Review

“Peter Behrens is a powerful stylist . . . if exile is Behrens’s obsession, he’s still making it work in his fiction” —The Globe and Mail

Other languages

CARRY ME is published in French as ‘Les Insouciants’ by Editions Philippe-Rey (Paris) and Editions XYZ (Montreal).

For a YouTube review in French by Marie Jospeh Bizious click here.


The O’Briens

House of Anansi Press, July 2011 (Canada)
Pantheon Books, March 2012 (United States)
Editions Philippe-Rey (Paris, 2013)

The Law of Dreams

Steerforth Press 2006 (US hardcover)
House of Anansi 2006 (Canada)
Random House (US paperback)

Travelling Light (Astoria, 2013)

Night Driving (Macmillan Canada, Toronto, 1987)