Buy This Book: PICTURES OF YOU by Caroline Leavitt

Mental anxiety can create a kind of fog and as with the real thing, you can make up almost any sort of reality from it. You can create any kind of illusion. See a thing that isn’t there or not see a thing that is. Drive yourself insane. Drive yourself straight into a horrible, head-on collision with someone else, another woman, who is in the same state of panic as you, someone who is running as hard and fast as you. This is the scenario that Caroline Leavitt begins with in her latest novel, Pictures of You. And when the horrible wrenching sounds of the accident have fallen silent, only one woman is still alive. One woman, Isabelle, and one child, nine-year-old Sam. April, Sam’s mother, is dead. Isabelle is inconsolable. She remembers driving through the fog; she remembers seeing April’s car--stopped dead in the center of the road. Wasn’t that how it happened? The police agree. There was nothing Isabelle could have done. No one knows why April stopped. Sam swears he doesn’t know. The single consolation for Isabelle and for April’s husband, Charlie, is that Sam survived with little injury. But if he knows why his mother acted as she did, he isn’t telling, not yet. An even greater mystery, though, is what April was doing on that road in the first place. Three hours from home with a packed suitcase. She was leaving, obviously, but why? Charlie is desperate to know and even more desperate to protect Sam who is delicate, afflicted with acute asthma, and yet so brave, so determined to survive, to be well.

Sam is desperate too, to talk to his mother just once more and Isabelle is desperate to make it up to both Charlie and Sam, but how can she? It is from all this desperation that the most inexplicable of relationships develops between the three survivors each one of whom is in such dire straits, in such need of understanding and forgiveness and healing. When Sam, either by accident or design, finds books in the library about the possibility that angels might be counted on to arrange the meeting with his mother he so longs for, when he mixes up in his mind, Isabelle’s presence at the scene of the accident with that of an angelic visitation, the search for the truth of what happened and why on that foggy stretch of rural country road takes on elements of magical realism that are a child’s natural ground. I loved how this thread was woven into a story that is as much a tale of mystery and suspense as it is an exploration of the nature of human relationships and the often questionable road to forgiveness both of one’s self and of others. Is it possible? Is the job ever finished? And the nature of love is explored as well, its sometimes incongruous appearance in the most unlikely of circumstances, but somehow it lights as gently as a whisper in exactly the place where it is most needed.

Using language that simply unspools in the loveliest, most effortless fashion, Caroline Leavitt has created a cast of characters who are warm and relatable and a story that is as charming as it is, at times, heartbreaking. The ending is not what you might expect and even now, although I wish it might have been otherwise, I know it was exactly right.


Anonymous said…
I officially adore you. Thank you for such a thoughtful and wonderful review! I am so appreciative! Can I send you a signed bookplate as my thanks? Just shoot me your address through twitter and I will. Thank you again.
Joni Rodgers said…
You had me at unspool. Thanks for another great review, Bobbi.

And am I the only one who loves this cover art?
Barbara Sissel said…
No, Joni. The cover art got me too. It's gorgeous and so absolutely illustrates the story. Wonderful book!

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