Pictures of You by Caroline Leavitt

carolinePictures of You by Caroline Leavitt
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

View all my reviews

Pictures of You was a fine piece that really presented life in its most raw and unpredictable fashion. It’s a story left behind by April who was killed in a car accident. As her husband and son later learned she was running away, they were left wondering why she was running away and so were we. It’s also a story of Isabelle, who unfortunately struck April that foggy day on the road and was left struggling to put the pieces of her life back together as she winds up discovering love and healing through the lives of those least expected. Both women running from their respective marriages. One was unhappy and unloved; the other was, I guess, unfulfilled.

This book had momentum and teeth from the start. Leavitt clearly jumped right in. We knew what was going on in Isabelle’s mind from the time she got into the car to the horror that would change her life forever. Sam was the heartbeat of the story: a young boy with chronic, life-threatening asthma, who was dealing with the trauma of losing his mother, keeping the painful secrets of the accident, struggling to make sense of his new life alone with his grieving father, Charlie.  Charlie’s suffering was multidimensional. He’s grieving April’s loss for himself and for Sam, while trying to come to terms knowing that April was leaving him… for reasons he will never know. Through it all, I believe that Charlie was the one to learn the most about life’s curveballs in the most bewildering way. He seemed to be such a happy man before April’s loss. Even so for a while after he moved on. Then from the knowledge of his deceased wife’s unhappiness and ultimate departure to the truth about his parent’s marriage to the experience of watching love walk away from him, he wound up being the most bitter at the end. He wounded Sam under the guise of protecting him, thus hurting them both.

In life after the loss of a loved one, we are left with our own memories and such provided by others. Leavitt conveyed April’s existence in this same manner. In the aftermath of the accident, we followed the analyses of their pasts and their self-discoveries toward the future. The only voice for April was through the backstories provided through Charlie and Sam. That, to me, was such an interesting tactic. Just as the characters of her life were left to speculate, so were we.

At the end of the book, I gathered Isabelle loved Frank very much, but I really felt her twinge in a subtle way for that life with Charlie and Sam that she had to leave behind. I’m glad she left because she really had to; there was no viable future in the Cape for her anymore. Charlie didn’t know what to do, but she did. She had to do just as she’d set out in the beginning. It was heart-tugging. Fortunately, happiness without attachments wound up finding her.

There were a few other moments that really choked me up. Naturally through Sam, since Leavitt captured and shared his emotions so vividly from that child’s perspective in his changing world. It was also Charlie, the widower who believed he found love again, who sought to discover the failures in his life with the never-answered questions of April’s abrupt departure and untimely death. It was sad. That’s what I enjoyed about this book: it simply resembled life. Its’ messy, unpredictable, unscripted, and beautiful moments. It is a poignant story that kept me engrossed until the end. Leavitt’s story allowed me to escape. The reason that I read!

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