Pictures of You by Caroline Leavitt
April. Charlie and Sam. Isabelle. Four lives that intersect as a result of a decision to escape one's life.
Pictures of You begins with Isabelle fleeing her marriage after she discovers her husband is having an affair. Luke is not the man her mother wants her to be with when she began dating him as a teenager. Instead of listening to her mother's warnings, Isabelle runs off with Luke and later marries him.
April is not the typical "girl-next-door" type. Which is why Charlie fell in love with her the moment he first saw her. The pair eventually marry and have one son, Sam. Sam suffers from asthma and finds himself always under his parents' cautious watch. Some may think April's parenting style is unconventional, but it's obvious she adores Sam.
That same fateful day Isabelle decides to leave her husband, April is also escaping her life. The two collide on a foggy day leaving April dead, Charlie and Sam grieving over her death and Isabelle feeling responsible for killing her. Weighed down with remorse, Isabelle seeks out Charlie and Sam. She wants to tell them how sorry she is for what has happened and asks for Charlie's forgiveness. Instead she finds herself drawn to Sam and begins a relationship with Charlie.
Pictures of You provides an inside look on how grief affects the living. For Charlie, he now is forced to raise Sam alone and to honestly look at his marriage and the woman he fell in love with. How well do we really know our spouse? Charlie is left with many unanswered questions surrounding April's death.
Isabelle initially isolates after the accident. When she starts picking up the pieces to move forward, she is given a second chance. Will she take advantage of this opportunity despite what has happened? Or will she wallow in self-guilt about the accident and the end of her marriage that she remains permanently stuck?
And Sam. How does a young boy grow up without his mother? April was different than the others moms. She took him out of school so the two of them could have an adventure. How will he adjust to Isabelle's and Charlie's relationship?
Pictures of You is by no means a light, quick read. Leavitt created characters so complex that I found myself slowing down to take in the story. I admit I was against Isabelle's and Charlie's relationship from the start. Leavitt's style of writing vividly painted the raw pain and deep loss both felt after the accident, that it was almost as though they were drawn to each other as two magnets. Yes, I understood their immediate attraction for each other, however I did not want to see them as a couple.
April is the link that ties Charlie, Sam and Isabelle together. Unfortunately the reader does not hear April's story in her own voice. Instead the reader learns about April through memories and other people's perceptions. From this, I found it difficult to like April and easy to judge her. I wish I could have read April's story in her voice, especially the events that led her to leave Charlie.
Despite my reservations with Charlie's relationship with Isabelle and not hearing April's voice, I still highly recommend Pictures of You. Leavitt will keep you up long into the night as you find yourself being pulled into the story.
Pub. Date: January 25, 2011
Publisher: Algonquin Books (A Division of Workman Publishing)
Source: Personal Copy