Book Review: Pictures Of YouTravel Books & Movies — By Blair H on March 1, 2011 at 4:00 pm
By Caroline Leavitt
Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill
Rating: 4 stars
Review by Rebecca Lucente
I did not expect to disappear into the world of this book. I didn’t even think I would like it beyond the level of regard I have for all books, simply because I love a story.
At the outset of the novel, two cars collide on a foggy Connecticut highway. Both drivers are women who are absconding from their marriages. They are running for different reasons, and toward different things, but at the root of each story is the same desire: happiness. April dies instantly, and Isabelle returns to the small town on the cape that both came from. The crash wasn’t her fault – the fog was too thick to see and the other car was stopped in the middle of the road facing the wrong way. However, simple fact does not take away from the emotional response of the survivors, the town, and the protagonist herself.
One evening, as if by unseen force, Isabelle finds herself walking toward the street where April’s husband, Charlie, and 8 year old son, Sam live. She swears to herself she will never do so again, yet day after day she ends up walking down that street, a strange amalgam of guilt and curiosity.
But their lives begin to intertwine when Sam who recognizes her in the park one morning. Sam is convinced that his memory of her at the scene means she is an angel, and was there to help April cross over. Certain that she can help him contact his mother, he actively begins to seek out her company. Soon, they have all found their way into each other’s hearts. Together Charlie and Isabelle try to unravel the mystery of why April left him in the first place, falling quite (predictably) deeply in love in the process.
There’s just one more thing – but it’s a big one: Isabelle’s dream of going to New York City to learn her craft, and making a career beyond portraiture at the local mall. As contrived as I feel certain aspects of the novel are, the ending was unexpected.
Pictures of You is a story of love, and loss; of how we forgive, and how we move on. It is a stunning example of truth in fiction; the idea that fiction has the power to expose the universal truths of the human experience in a way a telling of what actually happened cannot. The book also asks how well can you really know someone, even, or maybe especially, the ones you love.
As enjoyable as it was to experience Charlie and Isabelle fall in love, the whole sleeping with the enemy bit grated at my sensibilities. Other plot points were similarly contrived, a bit reminiscent of a Jennifer Lopez movie, and certain characters slowed down the flow.
However, the positive points of the story eclipsed these drawbacks. The characters were so fully developed, so vivid, that they haunted me long after I closed the book. Leavitt painted each scene with a photographer’s eye for detail. The respective backstories unfolded through flashbacks at a natural pace that enhanced, rather than distracted from the action of the plot moving forward.
It struck me how well Leavitt portrays the complexities of romantic love, particularly from the male perspective. Through Charlie’s thoughts and actions, the mystery ways and depth in which a man loves a woman seemed to be revealed a little.
Isabelle’s quest for self-fulfillment is inspiring. She buys a turtle when confronted with living alone not only after the accident, but for the first time in her life. I can’t help but see the turtle as a symbol, a reminder that the race isn’t always to the quickest, but to the ones who keep going. I can imagine her as the fourth on the Lost Girls adventure, lugging her heavy camera, lenses and film across the world.
You can find Pictures of You on Amazon, in both paperback and Kindle.
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