On a foggy September afternoon two women who have never met leave their Cape Cod town, each escaping her life and each leaving her husband without warning. Three hours from home on a turnoff from the interstate, there is a fatal accident. Only one woman survives. In the aftermath, three people face an uncertain future.
Caroline Leavitt's Pictures of You (which I spotlighted a couple of weeks ago) examines the effects of a tragic accident from three viewpoints: a nine-year-old boy, Sam, who finds it impossible to believe that he will never see his mother again; the widowed Charlie, who can't understand what his wife, April, was doing so far from home; and Isabelle, who wonders if she will ever have the courage to leave the Cape and her husband, Luke, again.
The strength of this novel lies in the authenticity of the characters and the believability of their unique perspectives on their shared life-changing event. From the beginning, you are invested in the two families and their parallel, divergent, and intersecting lives. You want to know more about the impulsive, adventure-loving April and the steady, sensitive Isabelle. You hope Charlie finds a way to understand his late wife, and you're angry at Luke for how he behaved.
Most of all, though, your heart goes out to young Sam. He's sure he must have had something to do with the accident, but he's afraid to tell anyone what he remembers about that day. He is further isolated by his severe asthma, which makes it difficult for him to fit in at school. You want to reach out and tell Sam that he's not to blame and that he can trust the adults who love him.
Finally, Pictures of You, like real life, is not predictable. Characters do what they think is best for them, not necessarily what is best, and you wonder what you'd do in similar circumstances. The novel will make you think about fate, Münchausen syndrome, parenting, relationships, and angels. Highly recommended for book clubs.
I would be remiss if I were not to point out that there were some slight editing errors. For example, near the beginning of the book Isabelle mentions going to a new high school when she moves to the Cape, but later she says she has a GED. These were minor points that I thought about only after I finished the novel; I was never jarred out of the story.
Algonquin Books is a featured imprint on Beth Fish Reads. For more information about the imprint, please read Executive Editor Chuck Adams's introductory letter, posted here on January 7, 2011.
Published by Algonquin, 2011
Source: Review (see review policy)
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