Friday, March 11, 2011

My take on: Pictures of You

Pictures of You"Charlie Nash lived just six blocks away from her. She'd probably seen him a million times, at the beach, the supermarket, getting pizza. She had most likely seen April and Sam with him, a family splashing beside her in the surf, buying ice cream cones at Jelly's. They all lived in the same small town, and yet they were somehow strangers." Pg. 112

That quote in Pictures of You by Caroline Leavitt made me think about my own neighborhood. I've lived in the same house for 17-plus years. I know of the people in the surrounding homes, but I can't say I really know them. I see the same people in local stores and supermarkets, but I can't say I really know them. We see lots of people everyday, sometimes the same people, and most times don't give them a second thought -- unless we're forced to.

A tragic accident forces the characters of Pictures of You to come together. By the end you'll be asking yourself, "Do I know how to forgive?"

April Nash and Isabelle Stein are both running from their marriages.

April thinks there is a better life out there for her, a life away from her son, Sam, and husband Charlie. After reading the book, April's motives for leaving seem very selfish. The frequent adventures, which often come at the expense of school, April and Sam go on had me thinking she was a devoted but slightly misguided mother. According to April, her parents were too wrapped up in their own relationship to pay attention to their daughter. For this reason, April wants Sam to have a better life than she did. She wants to her husband say, "I love you." Not matter how much Charlie shows his love, the words seem to matter more to her. The new life April was running to didn't seem to have enough room for Charlie. I know everyone wants to be loved and to know they matter to the people in their lives, but April seemed to be running for the wrong reasons.

On the flip side, I think Isabelle was running for the right reasons. Her mother has wanted nothing to do with her for years and her marriage is in shambles. She's a photographer in a small town, stuck taking pictures of children and families at a small studio. Families and children Isabelle believes she will never have. With no ties, what's stopping Isabelle from running? Nothing. But, the lives of both of these women collide -- literally. Isabelle accidentally kills April in a car crash.

April's death creates an unlikely friendship between Sam, Charlie, and Isabelle. Sam sees Isabelle as an angel sent to help him communicate with his mother. Rather than acknowledge her death, Sam like most children (and adults) is in denial. Talking about it is too painful. Instead, taking photographs together proves therapeutic for April and Sam. At first, Charlie wants nothing to do with Isabelle but eventually he sees her in a new light. Instead of hating the woman who took his wife, Charlie starts to have feelings for Isabelle. But are those feelings right? Can he forgive her? What if she leaves just like April tried to? What will other people think? Can he allow himself to move on or will he hold onto a ghost?

The ending doesn't wrap everything up in a bow, but it leaves you with hope for the future of Sam, Charlie, and Isabelle. It's an ending that seems very true to real life. Life is complicated but eventually we can find our way to happiness.

Rating: Superb

Note: I received a copy of the book from the publisher (Algonquin) for an honest review. For more information on Caroline Leavitt, visit

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