Pictures of You

Pictures of You

3.4 135
by Caroline Leavitt
     
 

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Two women running away from their marriages collide on a foggy highway, killing one of them. The survivor, Isabelle, is left to pick up the pieces, not only of her own life, but of the lives of the devastated husband and fragile son that the other woman, April, has left behind. Together, they try to solve the mystery of where April was running to, and why. As these

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Overview

Two women running away from their marriages collide on a foggy highway, killing one of them. The survivor, Isabelle, is left to pick up the pieces, not only of her own life, but of the lives of the devastated husband and fragile son that the other woman, April, has left behind. Together, they try to solve the mystery of where April was running to, and why. As these three lives intersect, the book asks, How well do we really know those we love—and how do we forgive the unforgivable?

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Leavitt's ninth book (after Girls in Trouble), a touching story of loss and discovery, centers on photographer Isabelle Stein, whose stifled Cape Cod life and marriage crumbles when she discovers her husband has gotten his mistress pregnant. She packs up her cameras and takes off, but has a horrific car accident in Hartford, Conn., that kills the woman in the other car. As it turns out, the dead woman is April Nash, who lived a few blocks away from Isabelle's home on the Cape, and April's son, Sam, now believes Isabelle is an angel who can help him communicate with his mother. Once Isabelle ends up back on the Cape, she, Sam, and April's widower, Charlie, develop a strong but strange bond as they all try to sort out what comes next. Leavitt explores the depths of grief and the sticky spots sorrow pushes people into, and though the story stumbles sometimes into too saccharine moments, Leavitt's near bottomless reserve of compassion for her imperfect characters will endear them to readers. (Jan.)
Washington Post
"This thoughtful novel brings up a problem all of us have to deal with in the course of our lives, unless we're lucky enough to sneak through existence without encountering misfortune of any kind . . . This is a novel that invites us to look at our own imperfections, not the dramatic crimes, but the niggling little sins of omission that so often render our lives tragically undernourished and small." —Washington Post
O: The Oprah Magazine
"Leavitt is superb at revealing the secrecy inside many marriages and the way children grieve . . . most impressive is how Leavitt deals head-on with well-meaning people who come to realize, too late, that even an imperfect life is irreplaceable." —O: The Oprah Magazine
Elle
"Leavitt's ambitious narrative examines the various kinds of love—uxorious, romantic, paternal—that can arise from or be transformed by unspeakable grief. These survivors bravely gather the fragments of their lives, which once seemed so safely wrapped up in habits and, it turns out, illusions. Their trials and triumphs remind us that however firmly we seek to root our perceptions in reality, some truths will always elude us in love." --Elle
Mothering Magazine
"Although we all hope this becomes a seamlessly happy ending, its more like the sloppy, messy, human, frustrating, yet transcendent thing we generally call life." —Mothering Magazine
Vanity Fair
"Caroline Leavitt plumbs the depths of grief and forgiveness in the lovely Pictures of You." --Vanity Fair
O: The Oprah Magazine
"Leavitt is superb at revealing the secrecy inside many marriages and the way children grieve . . . most impressive is how Leavitt deals head-on with well-meaning people who come to realize, too late, that even an imperfect life is irreplaceable." —O: The Oprah Magazine
Library Journal
Leavitt's ninth novel (after Girls in Trouble) opens with a tragic and eerie car accident. Two women from the same small Cape Cod town collide on a foggy road one morning. Both were leaving their husbands, but only one, Isabelle, survives. Another survivor is the other's severely asthmatic nine-year-old son, also in the accident. He witnesses what he believes to be an angel at the crash—Isabelle. Leavitt tells a compelling story of how the two survivors' lives entwine, partly because of the boy's desire to talk with Isabelle about his mother. Leavitt's characters and their problems feel very real, and readers will want to know more about them. Despite all this, the angel trope peppered throughout feels forced and unnecessary, and the plot becomes somewhat predictable; the second half of the book is also significantly weaker than the first. VERDICT This is an entertaining read and a wonderful story, but it doesn't cover any new literary ground. Recommended for fans of women's fiction.—Shalini Miskelly, Seattle
Kirkus Reviews

Tragedy leads to complicated love as a widower and the woman who accidentally killed his wife are united by a grieving child looking for an angel.

Compassion and a delicate narrative voice lift Leavitt (Girls in Trouble, 2003, etc.) over many if not all the hurdles of sentimentality in this heartstring-tugger, set in Cape Cod, that's shaped by loss and yearning. Photographer Isabelle Stein, fleeing from her unfaithful husband in foggy weather, suddenly encounters a car containing a woman and a child, the car facing the wrong way in the middle of the road. The unavoidable collision leaves April Nash dead; her nine-year-old asthmatic son Sam only slightly hurt but silent on what he witnessed; and Sam's father Charlie heartbroken and bewildered. Why was April three hours away from home and traveling with a suitcase? The aftermath of the crash is a struggle for all parties, especially Sam, who sees Isabelle as an angel connected to his mother. The two become friends through photography, and Charlie's initial anger subsides as he acknowledges childless Isabelle's genuine affection for the boy. But when Sam learns that the adults have become lovers, the emotional impact makes him ill. Separation follows, then an explanation which liberates Charlie to go after Isabelle. Crossed wires are eventually straightened out, but not predictably.

Heartfelt (everyone cries), deft and highly readable fiction.

Carolyn See
This is a novel that invites us to look at our own imperfections, not the dramatic crimes, but the niggling little sins of omission that so often render our lives tragically undernourished and small.
—The Washington Post
the Oprah Magazine O
"Suspenseful...gripping. Leavitt is superb at revealing the secrecy inside many marriages and the way children grieve; several moving scenes involve Sam, who has come to imagine Isabelle as a crash scene "angel" who will take him to his mother. Most impressive is how Leavitt deals head-on with well-meaning people who come to realize, too late, that even an imperfect life is irreplaceable." --(Jane Ciabattari)
Hot Type Vanity Fair
Caroline Leavitt plumbs the depths of grief and forgiveness in the lovely Pictures Of You.
Venus Zine
"With a tragic story and a cast of highly relatable, flawed characters, Pictures of You is a kind of female version of another novel that revolves around a car accident, John Burnham Schwartz's haunting Reservation Road.”
Booklist
"In Leavitt's (Girls in Trouble, 2005) compelling new novel, a car crash provides the catalyst for an examination of how well we know the people we love. Leavitt thoughtfully handles friendship and romance in scenes of emotional resonance. She understands the ache of loss, the elusiveness of forgiveness, and the triteness of words like"closure."An expert storyteller, Leavitt alternates perspective among her three leading characters, providing insight into the thoughts, secrets, and dreams that they withhold from each other. Whether these individuals will arrive at happiness separately or together is the question that drives the narrative, and the reader, forward as Leavitt teases suspense out of the greatest mystery of all—the workings of the human heart." --(Patty Wetli)
From the Publisher
“Leavitt’s emotional and rich storytelling, set against the windy backdrop of Cape Cod, takes readers to a place they’ll long to visit again and again.”
BookPage

“Caroline Leavitt’s compelling new Pictures of You unfolds as part literary mystery, part domestic drama, and part psychological examination. Leavitt beautifully paces the intertwining stories, meticulously unfurling bits of the back story, letting us put together the pieces just as the main characters do.”
Boston Globe

“Leavitt’s literary touch is so light . . . that only when the mystery is finally solved does the reader realize how taut she’s kept the tension all along. The author’s sure steady hand at the wheel makes the reading experience so engaging, its characters so irresistible, that Pictures of You is a novel I suspect I’ll return to again and again.”
San Francisco Chronicle

“Leavitt’s formidable skill is evident from beginning to end as we piece these lives together to find out what brought them to this world-ending moment. It’s like a somberly beautiful mystery that unfolds like a dark flower until we see the glowing heart. The characters are fully drawn and we immediately feel we know them, perhaps better than the people we spend our everyday lives with. It’s an age-old story of great love and great loss that is told in these pages, but deftly woven and in a way that makes it almost impossible to stop until you reach the end. Leavitt tells a haunted yet revelatory tale and resists the urge to end it neatly—instead it has the unmistakable agony and glory of real people living real lives.”
Huffington Post

“A white-knuckle ride of lost love and longing. . . . Never disappoints for a second.”
Minneapolis Star Tribune

“Robin Miles does her usual lilting reading which is filled with quiet emotion. . . . She carries [the characters] from the accident, through growing relationships and into the future.”
Sound Commentary

BookPage
“Leavitt’s emotional and rich storytelling, set against the windy backdrop of Cape Cod, takes readers to a place they’ll long to visit again and again.”
BookPage
Boston Globe
“Caroline Leavitt’s compelling new Pictures of You unfolds as part literary mystery, part domestic drama, and part psychological examination. Leavitt beautifully paces the intertwining stories, meticulously unfurling bits of the back story, letting us put together the pieces just as the main characters do.”
Boston Globe
Minneapolis Star Tribune
“A white-knuckle ride of lost love and longing. . . . Never disappoints for a second.”
Minneapolis Star Tribune
San Francisco Chronicle
“Leavitt’s literary touch is so light . . . that only when the mystery is finally solved does the reader realize how taut she’s kept the tension all along. The author’s sure steady hand at the wheel makes the reading experience so engaging, its characters so irresistible, that Pictures of You is a novel I suspect I’ll return to again and again.”
San Francisco Chronicle
Huffington Post
“Leavitt’s formidable skill is evident from beginning to end as we piece these lives together to find out what brought them to this world-ending moment. It’s like a somberly beautiful mystery that unfolds like a dark flower until we see the glowing heart. The characters are fully drawn and we immediately feel we know them, perhaps better than the people we spend our everyday lives with. It’s an age-old story of great love and great loss that is told in these pages, but deftly woven and in a way that makes it almost impossible to stop until you reach the end. Leavitt tells a haunted yet revelatory tale and resists the urge to end it neatly—instead it has the unmistakable agony and glory of real people living real lives.”
Huffington Post

Sound Commentary
“Robin Miles does her usual lilting reading which is filled with quiet emotion. . . . She carries [the characters] from the accident, through growing relationships and into the future.”
Sound Commentary

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781565126312
Publisher:
Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill
Publication date:
01/25/2011
Pages:
336
Sales rank:
570,374
Product dimensions:
5.40(w) x 8.10(h) x 1.10(d)

What People are saying about this

Robb Forman Dew
Pictures of You is a complicated and complex near mystery of a novel. . . . I found it impossible to put the book down until I finished it. Leavitt is a writer who can be trusted absolutely, and she’s created a wonderful book that’s as complicated, crushing, and joyous as life itself.”
—Robb Forman Dew, National Book Award winner
Michelle Richmond
The extraordinary intersection of four lives sets the scene for this complex and deeply moving novel about love, loss, and letting go. In Pictures of You, Caroline Leavitt presents a deeply felt story you'll be thinking about long after you've turned the last page. (Michelle Richmond, author of The Year of Fog and No One You Know)
Chris Bohjalian
“Riveting and poignant and deeply moving . . . A beautiful and hypnotic exploration of the ways we heal—and, yes, the ways we don’t.”
—Chris Bohjalian, author of Secrets of Eden
Jodi Picoult
“A magically written, heartbreakingly honest snapshot of the people we leave behind and those we can’t let go. . . . Caroline Leavitt is one of those fabulous, incisive writers you read and then ask yourself, Where has she been all my life?”
—Jodi Picoult
Robert Olen Butler
“Caroline Leavitt is a splendid writer at the peak of her powers.”
—Robert Olen Butler, Pulitzer Prize winner
Dan Chaon
“I have long admired Caroline Leavitt's probing insight into people, her wit and compassion, her ability to find humor in dark situations, and conversely, her tenderness towards characters.”
—Dan Chaon
From the Publisher
“A magically written, heartbreakingly honest snapshot of the people we leave behind and those we can’t let go . . . Caroline Leavitt is one of those fabulous, incisive writers you read and then ask yourself, Where has she been all my life?” —Jodi Picoult

"I found it impossible to put this book down . . . [it’s] as complicated, crushing, and joyous as life itself.” —Robb Forman Dew

“A splendid writer at the peak of her powers.” —Robert Olen Butler

"Heartbreaking, suspenseful, and moving, Pictures of You contains all the elements I long for in a great story.” —Diana Abu-Jaber

"I have long admired Caroline Leavitt’s pobing insight into people, her wit and compassion, her ability to find humor in dark situations, and conversely, her tenderness toward characters other writers might merely satirize.” —Dan Chaon

"Caroline Leavitt is a masterful storyteller . . . this is a beautiful book.” —Dani Shapiro

"Caroline Leavitt is a masterful storyteller . . . this is a beautiful book.” —Dani Shapiro

“An enthralling amalgamation of a literary mystery and the story of one woman’s search for self-fulfillment.” —Binnie Kirshenbaum

Binnie Kirshenbaum
Pictures of You is an enthralling amalgamation of a literary mystery and the story of one woman's search for self-fulfillment. A stunning coincidence results in a cruel fate, but the redemptive power of love offers the possibility of a second chance. Caroline Leavitt has written a page-turning novel; her characters spring from the heart. (Binnie Kirshenbaum, author of The Scenic Route)
Diana Abu-Jaber
Heartbreaking, suspenseful, and moving. (Diana Abu-Jaber, author of Origin and The Language of Baklava)
Dani Shapiro
“I was mesmerized from the opening pages. Caroline Leavitt is a masterful storyteller . . . This is a beautiful book.”
—Dani Shapiro, author of Devotion
Kate Christensen
Leavitt writes straight into the heart of each scene to find its rich, emotional undercurrents. (Kate Christensen, author of Trouble, A Novel)

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