Review: Pictures of You by Caroline Leavitt

  • Paperback: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Algonquin Books (January 25, 2011)
  • ISBN-10: 1565126319
  • Source: Publisher
  • One foggy night, two women both running from unhappy marriages, are quite literally brought together when their cars collide.  April, mother of Sam, a severely asthmatic boy, is killed instantly.  Sam escapes the accident by running into the nearby forest.  While Isabelle is not held responsible for April’s death, she can’t seem to get over the guilt of killing another person.

    As she recovers, Isabelle finds herself drawn to Sam and his father, Charlie. She walks down their street, she watches Sam at the playground.  When Sam sees her, he recognizes her from the accident but believes she’s an angel, a messenger for his mother. He, in turn, follows her back to her home, ultimately forming the first of two very complicated relationships.

    Isabelle introduces Sam to photography.  Due to his asthma, Sam is unable to participate in any sports, have any pets, but photography is one thing he can do. 

    “Sometimes photographs show things that aren’t there.  You have to learn to look deeper, to see what might be hidden.”

    The second of the two complicated relationships is between Charlie and Isabelle.  Drawn together by their shared feeling of loss and guilt, they struggle to find meaning and a place for this relationship.  All three of the characters, Charlie, Isabelle, and Sam, struggle to find happiness.  The true test is whether this happiness is found together, or apart.

    Pictures of You is a beautiful and absorbing book of love, loss, and guilt.  Each of the main characters uncover secrets or deal with painful pasts in order to seek the happiness they deserve.  Leavitt does an outstanding job of capturing the loss, the grief, and recovery they suffer.  Told in alternating points of view, while the reader gets to experience the accident in three different viewpoints, one can’t help but wonder which is the most accurate.

    Admittedly, there were times in which I grew angry at the road the author was taking with the characters. I literally had to put the book down and take a break for a few hours, even a few days.  Ultimately, however, I appreciated these choices & understood how integral they were for the overall storyline.

    Pictures of You is the perfect book for a reading group discussion, as a matter of fact it was the May selection for the book club I lead at One More Page Books.  There are so many aspects to be discussed, including how each of the characters deal with grief and recovery.  Believe it or not, we went out on a tangent and compared this book with how the family in AMC’s The Killing deal with the loss of a loved one!

    Bottom line: read it.  You won’t regret it.

    8 Responses to Review: Pictures of You by Caroline Leavitt

    1. I have a friend who highly recommends this book. After reading your review and her recommendation I will have to make sure this gets on my summer reading list. That si the first time I have seen the book trailer. It is intriguing!

    2. Beth Hoffman

      I thoroughly enjoyed Caroline’s latest, and I’m so glad you did too. Terrific review!

    3. Amy
      Twitter: Amestir

      The characters in this book sound fantastic and like real, flawed human beings dealing with so many of the things we all deal with…issues of love and loss, honesty and denial. This is a book I definitely want to read. Great review, thank you!

    4. I liked this one too, but have to admit that I wanted to know more about April.

    5. Robin
      Twitter: rferrier

      For anyone who is local to the D.C. area, Caroline Leavitt is going to be at the Gaithersburg Book Festival (http://gaithersburgbookfestival.org/default.htm) in Gaithersburg (Montgomery County), Maryland, on May 21.

    6. Amused
      Twitter: amusedbybooks

      My bookclub is looking for their next read. I think I should suggest this one!

    7. Beth F
      Twitter: BethFishReads

      One of the things I loved about the book was how real the characters seemed. A great book club pick.

    8. I ADORE you for this thoughtful, beautifully written review. Thank you, thank you, thank you. (The novel is actually a tie-in to The Killing, a show I revere, so I am so delighted you mentioned that, too.)

      Truly, Thank you so, so much!

      Warmly,
      Caroline Leavitt