Publishers Weekly® Reviews
- Reviewed in: Publishers Weekly, page .
- Review Date: 2010-08-23
- Reviewer: Staff
Leavitt's ninth book (after Girls in Trouble), a touching story of loss and discovery, centers on photographer Isabelle Stein, whose stifled Cape Cod life and marriage crumbles when she discovers her husband has gotten his mistress pregnant. She packs up her cameras and takes off, but has a horrific car accident in Hartford, Conn., that kills the woman in the other car. As it turns out, the dead woman is April Nash, who lived a few blocks away from Isabelle's home on the Cape, and April's son, Sam, now believes Isabelle is an angel who can help him communicate with his mother. Once Isabelle ends up back on the Cape, she, Sam, and April's widower, Charlie, develop a strong but strange bond as they all try to sort out what comes next. Leavitt explores the depths of grief and the sticky spots sorrow pushes people into, and though the story stumbles sometimes into too saccharine moments, Leavitt's near bottomless reserve of compassion for her imperfect characters will endear them to readers. (Jan.)
A tale of healing and redemption
As Isabelle Stein’s car rushes headlong into a woman on a foggy highway, she glimpses a small boy running away from the road. The woman, April Nash, is killed instantly, while her son witnesses the accident through the panicked haze of an asthma attack. In the days that follow, Isabelle can’t stop asking herself questions: Why was the car parked in the middle of the road facing the wrong way? Who was April? How will Isabelle ever recover? Caroline Leavitt’s Pictures of You offers a close-up view of Isabelle’s journey—a path of healing, redemption and, ultimately, rebirth.
Isabelle and April would have had a lot to talk about, if they’d happened to meet in their shared home of Cape Cod before the accident. Both married young, earned unconventional educations and longed to reinvent themselves. In fact, both were running away from their old lives when they collided. As Isabelle learns about April, she begins to spy on April’s bereaved husband Charlie and son Sam. She cannot drive anymore (too frightening), so she bikes past their house and sees, to her dismay, that Charlie seems like a kind and intelligent man. Meanwhile Sam convinces himself Isabelle may be an angel with special abilities that will let him talk to his mother again. The scenes of budding friendship between Isabelle and Sam—both obsessed with each other for such different reasons—are extraordinary. Isabelle takes a snapshot of her and Sam, and presents it to him with the inscription on the back, “Some connections are never broken.”
Leavitt’s emotional and rich storytelling, set against the windy backdrop of Cape Cod, takes readers to a place they’ll long to visit again and again. Whether looking down a misty road, through a Canon lens or across a kitchen table, it’s often difficult to see clearly. Many good people struggle to understand what happens in their lives, re-examining things until they can find the right kind of meaning. Readers will hope Isabelle, Charlie and Sam can find that meaning in Pictures of You.