Friday, January 28, 2011

Review: Pictures of You

Summary: 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?-- Algonquin

A few days ago I was tweeting about how wonderful the month of January has been for new releases. It seems like I've read one book after another that belong on a "Best of 2011 list," and the year has barely even gotten off the ground. I just finished reading another book that I absolutely adored -- PICTURES OF YOU by Caroline Leavitt. Words cannot express how much I treasured each and every word of this book.

I have to admit that I'm reluctant to write this review for a few of reasons. First, any time I like a book this much I'm afraid that I won't be able to do it justice. I'm sure I will gush and go overboard, and for that reason alone, turn some of you away! And then, there's that whole business that Ms. Leavitt is not only an accomplished author, but she's also a well known book reviewer. Who the heck am I to even try to "review" her book? Talk about intimidating!

There are just so many incredible things about PICTURES OF YOU from the prose, to the character development, to the story itself. I was caught up in this novel within just a few pages -- it really just grabbed me and held on! The story was intriguing and yet heartbreaking, and I loved how complex each of these characters' were. PICTURES OF YOU explored the lasting effects of a terrible accident on the remaining "victims," and I thought Ms. Leavitt managed to capture the essence of loss and grief so honestly. While each character dealt with the accident in a very different way, I could relate to how each one of them processed the pain they were experiencing.

And where to even begin with Ms. Leavitt's writing? -- it's really, really good. The dialogue between the characters is authentic, and her descriptions are so eloquent and beautiful. She managed to make me feel not only as if I could understand each of these characters, but that they were truly real for me. I think that says quite a bit. And while I appreciated everything about she told this story, one thing that brought this book to the next level for me was that I was continually surprised. So often, I thought I knew where she was going with this story; and then, it wasn't at all what I was expecting. PICTURES OF YOU wasn't predictable for me... at all, and I liked that the book's ending wasn't wrapped up in a neat little bow. I'm not even sure the ending was what I wanted, but I will say that I was satisfied and it did make me think. In fact, I'm still wondering about what happens to each of these characters after the novel ends.

My on-line book club is discussing PICTURES OF YOU for February, and I'm so excited. It's a marvelous book for discussion. The characters are so incredibly well-developed and so complex that I'm sure you could talk about just their actions and motivations for hours. In addition, because the book was so written and had so many surprises, you can discuss Ms. Leavitt's writing choices. There is a reading guide included in the back of my book with 15 great questions -- I absolutely loved them; and they actually got me thinking even more about this novel -- which I didn't think was possible. Unfortunately, I wasn't able to find an on-line link for the guide. Some of the topics you might want to further explore include escapism, marriage, parenthood, motherhood, grief, loss, love, new beginnings, illness, and forgiveness.

I've tried to express my feelings towards this novel (I know it was major gushing!), and I do hope that you will give it a try. The story is gripping, and at the same time touching; and Ms. Leavitt's writing is positively beautiful. Trust me on this one -- read PICTURES OF YOU!

Thanks to the publisher for sending me a review copy of this wonderful novel!

11 comments:

Dawn @ sheIsTooFondOfBooks said...

Oh, I hadn't thought about the fact that Leavitt is a reviewer; yes, that IS intimidating!

I'm looking forward to reading this; glad you enjoyed it so much.

rhapsodyinbooks said...

This sounds good but depressing!

Rebecca Rasmussen said...

I am LOVING this book too! I can definitely see why it's doing so well :)

Kay said...

I'm looking forward to reading this one. I used a B&N giftcard to buy it the other day. Thanks for sharing!

Raejean said...

Thanks for adding another book to my list of want to read books! I shared your link on my Favorite Feeds Friday.

Julie said...

I can't wait to read this one. Caroline Leavitt was so gracious as to do two phone chats with the book club I'm in over the past few years. She was so, so, so fabulous to talk to! I'm such of big fan of hers!

Melissa Mc (Gerbera Daisy Diaries) said...

Another one I can't wait to read!

Laura Fabiani said...

I think you did do this book justice with your review because as usual you write your reviews from the heart, just as if you were telling your best friend about the book. Well done!

bermudaonion said...

This sounds fantastic! I'll be reading it next and can't wait after reading your review!

Beth F said...

Wow -- I'm so intrigued that we used similar words to describe this book and the characters. And we also found similar themes for further discussion. I'm so glad I came back to read what you wrote.

Mary said...

Nice review. I listened to it and reviewed it this week. I'll be looking for more books by Caroline Leavitt!