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Pictures of You

Pictures of You

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Pictures of You

avaliações:
4/5 (48 avaliações)
Comprimento:
411 página
6 horas
Lançado em:
Jan 25, 2011
ISBN:
9781616200329
Formato:
Livro

Descrição

A NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER

“Magically written, heartbreakingly honest.”  —Jodi Picoult

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?

Caroline Leavitt's new novel With or Without You is on sale August 4, 2020.
Lançado em:
Jan 25, 2011
ISBN:
9781616200329
Formato:
Livro

Sobre o autor

Caroline Leavitt is the award-winning author of twelve novels, including the New York Times bestsellers Pictures of You and Is This Tomorrow. Her essays and stories have been included in New York magazine, Psychology Today, More, Parenting, Redbook, and Salon. She’s a book critic for People, the Boston Globe, and the San Francisco Chronicle, and she teaches writing online at Stanford and UCLA.

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Pictures of You - Caroline Leavitt

Author

ONE

THERE’S A HORNET in the car. Isabelle hears a buzz and then feels a brush of wing against her cheek. A grape-size electric motor sings past her right ear. What’s it doing out in this weather? she wonders. It rumbles past her again, and she practically jumps. She tries to wave it outside, but instead it kamikazes to the back of the car, navigating among her cameras. Which is worse, she thinks, waiting for the sting, or the sting itself? She opens all the windows wider.

September fog is rolling across the highway, westbound US-6. Isabelle’s windshield clouds. At first, she doesn’t panic. She’s been driving for twenty years already. She’s a good, careful driver, and right now all this cloudiness is just an unwanted surprise. A trick of weather.

She switches on the headlights before she sees how much worse the lights make everything, how they reflect the fog. She tries the parking lights instead, which are a little better. They cut a small visual path on the road for her. Already, she feels a headache the size of a hard, shiny dime, forming behind her eyes.

Isabelle strains to see the road, checks her gas gauge, which shows half empty. She slows down. She wants to keep driving but might have to get off at an exit in Connecticut to fill up her tank.

Isabelle rubs at the window. She can still see. In the backseat, she’s got money she took from the bank to help get her resettled until she can find work. All her cameras are here, and one small suitcase stuffed with clothes. Let Luke toss the rest. Let him give them to Goodwill or his new girlfriend.

Or his new baby.

She knows this is crazy, but right now she’s capable of anything. She could reinvent herself. She could blot out her past.

A green sign, LEAVING CAPE COD, flashes by, and she starts to breathe. People sit in traffic for hours just to get here. They come from Boston and New York to spend two weeks in a tiny cottage and bread their bodies with beach sand and tanning lotion and absorb more sun than is healthy. Tourists collect the beach glass like it was diamonds instead of chipped pieces of soft drink bottles, and though everyone always tells her how lucky she is to live here, she’s never wanted anything more than to leave. Every time a visiting friend gets ready to leave, she’s had to stop herself from begging them to take her with them.

This isn’t the first time she’s run away, but the first time was a lifetime ago, back when she was sixteen and God knows that doesn’t count. Now she has a little money, a profession, and a dirt-cheap illegal sublet in New York City that’s available for as long as she wants it, courtesy of her friend Michelle. She yearns for cities where people don’t make you feel there is something wrong with you because you live there year ’round.

She tugs at her thin necklace, lapis on a gold chain that was a gift from Luke for her last birthday, and in a flare of despair she yanks it off in one brief rip. She throws it out the window and lets the fog swallow it up. She tugs off the wedding ring he gave her, too, a broad gold band wide enough to have her name scratched on the inside, and bounces it onto the highway. She checks her rear-view mirror, wondering if Luke will come after her.

She squints at the sky. Maybe the fog will lift. There’re still rays of sun out there, shooting through breaks in the clouds. God startling people into paying him some attention. That’s what her mother used to say. A sign.

Isabelle glances up at the sky again. If you want to talk about signs, talk about how the sky had looked just this way the first time Isabelle had brought Luke home. She was just fifteen and he was twenty-five and working at the local gas station, a job that didn’t exactly go over big with her mother. Of course, Luke’s age made it even worse. She was so in love it was like being insane. She couldn’t breathe when she was near him, couldn’t eat or sleep, and her brain felt rewired.

Luke was the one who cleaned her mother’s windshield without leaving a single smear, who put gas in the car and checked the tires and the shocks. She knew his name because it was embroidered in red on his pocket. He had a green bandana that he wore like a headband in his long, glossy hair, and he always rolled up his sleeves, so Isabelle could see his muscles. When he smiled at Isabelle, his eyes were full of light. He looked at her like she was the most interesting thing he had ever seen.

When her mother was paying inside, he told Isabelle that he wanted to go live on the Cape, right by the ocean, and he almost had enough money to do it. He had asked Isabelle for her phone number and suggested they go to a movie.

Not on your life, her mother said, coming up behind him. She’s way too young for you and way too smart and she’s going to college to be somebody.

Keeping her eyes fixed on the road, Isabelle opens the glove compartment and takes out the Saint Christopher medal her mother gave her, needing its reassurance. Impulsively, she loops it around her neck. Nora, her mother, would be stunned to know that Isabelle had kept it, that, in fact, this necklace is something she truly treasures. Everything had seemed like a wide open road back then, and of course that was before she knew that everything she had ever hoped for was impossible. Safe travels, her mother had told her, fastening the chain about Isabelle’s neck, even though Christopher’s sainthood was stripped a long time ago, even though Isabelle no longer believes in saints.

Isabelle and Luke came home one evening, when Nora was supposed to be at work at the library. They had been seeing each other a year then. It was a summer evening, and Isabelle wanted to pick up money so they could go to dinner. But as they pulled up, her heart sank, because there was Nora’s little red sedan in the driveway. Cheeze it, the cops, she said, trying to stay light, and then, as they got closer, she saw all these bright bolts of color scattered across the front lawn. What the fuck? Luke said. He started to laugh. Is this her way of spring cleaning? he said, but Isabelle gripped his arm.

They’re my clothes. Her voice was a rasp. There was her favorite blue dress, her winter coat, and all her junk jewelry sparkling among the dandelions. Her shoes were thrown on the bushes, her straw hat on the walk, her Saint Christopher medal gleaming on the lip of the lawn. The yard was a Jackson Pollock of clothes. Then the door banged open, and there was Nora, tall and beautiful back then, in the sleek green suit she had worn to work at her job in the library, her hair caught in a pin. Her arms were full of clothes and she stared hard at Isabelle and Luke, then opened her arms so the clothes tumbled out onto the front steps.

Isabelle leaped from the car. Mom! she cried.

You don’t follow my rules, you don’t live under my roof, Nora shouted, slamming the door shut so fiercely that Isabelle began to cry. Mom! she wailed.

She made her way to the front door, grabbing up the Saint Christopher medal, picking up her sweaters, her skirts, bunching them in her arms. Her heart was racing so fast she was dizzy. She banged on the front door, rang the bell, but there was no response.

She dug out her key and then she saw the new, shiny lock. Mom! she cried, slamming her hands against the door. Mom!

She was banging on the door when she felt Luke touching her. "Shhh, he said. He led her away, and when she bent down to get her clothes, he said, roughly, Leave them. We’ll get you new ones. Better ones." He guided her back to the car and then there was nowhere else for Isabelle to go even if she had wanted to, except with Luke.

All she had with her were her cameras. Drive slow, she told him. She said it was because the cops around here were such hard-asses, but it was really because she wanted to give Nora a chance. She kept expecting her to run from the house, to call Isabelle, Isabelle, to stop Isabelle before she did something that couldn’t be undone.

Isabelle and Luke drove to the Cape, landing in a tiny town named Oakrose, a place right outside Yarmouth, that all the signs said was famous for its sunny beaches and fried oysters. The beaches, though, were small and crowded, and Isabelle didn’t like oysters. Almost immediately Luke got a job at a local bar/café called Josie’s. Isabelle got a job taking pictures at You Must Have Been a Beautiful Baby, a cut-rate child photography place where no one cared if the shots were artistic or you had a degree, as long as you were fast and could focus a camera. No one had come looking for Isabelle. Her mother had never called. Then the owner of Josie’s died, and Luke took all the money he had saved and got a loan to buy it, renaming it Luke’s. In that moment Isabelle somehow knew her mother would never come for her and Luke would never leave.

She wore the Saint Christopher medal all through her new high school, forging her mother’s name on the paperwork, getting her records transferred, not really making friends because who else at sixteen lived with their boyfriend and not their parents. Who else worked every shift she could at the Leaning Tower of Pizza in order to save some money for film instead of going out and having fun? She wore it through the times she’d called home and gotten no answer, gripping it for comfort and hope. She’d worn it while she worked at the photo studio, loving the feel of it against her skin, the slide and flash, as she adjusted a child’s hair or repositioned her light meter. She swore the medal made her customers behave better because they thought she was a believer, when really, she had no idea what she believed in.

And now here she is, thirty-six and married, and no longer a child, with no child of her own. There was never enough money for her to get the college degree she thought she’d have. Though she works at her photography, she’s never sold a photo or had a show. The necklace brings her bright, glimmery hope, and ridiculous as it is, it comforts her to feel it around her neck. It still makes her feel that things can change.

She rolls up the windows and turns on the air conditioner. The car clicks and knocks. Luke had spent the last few years trying to get her to buy a better car, a little compact in a bright color instead of this black box that was always breaking down.

How can you love something that never runs right? Luke always said. And her joke response was always, Well, I love you, don’t I?

Three hours later and she’s still driving. She knows she has to stop for gas, so she gets off 1-95 South and heads deeper into Connecticut. The weather is muggy and strange, as if it doesn’t know what it wants, can’t decide if it’s going to rain or turn sunny.

She’s in a white summery dress, but still, sweat beads on her back. With one hand, she tries to gather up her hair, so long she’s practically sitting on it. Sometimes at the photo studio, the kids stare at her and ask her if she’s a witch with all that black hair, if she can do magic. A good witch, she says, smiling, but today, she’s not so sure. The wire-rimmed glasses she needs to drive slide heavily on her nose; when she takes them off, there’s a red mark on the bridge, like someone’s underlined her for emphasis. You’re too sensitive for your own good, Luke had always told her.

And well, she is, isn’t she? She feels the cold more than Luke does, bundling in sweaters as soon as the fall chill hits. The heat makes her wilt. She feels hurts more, too. The way, even after all this time, the cards she sends her mother always come back in the mail, scribbled across them in her mother’s hand: addressee unknown. The way Luke sometimes looks at her when she surprises him at his bar. Though he says he is happy to see her, his blue eyes go cloudy, like an approaching storm.

People comment on her sensitivity at work, too. Sometimes people say that she actually sees things that aren’t quite there yet. She’ll capture a serious, thoughtful look in a usually sunny child. Or make a delicate little girl look steely. Some people say that Isabelle captures the very spirit of a child, that it’s downright unearthly how you could look at one of Isabelle’s images and somehow see a child’s future. Years later, parents come back to the studio just to tell Isabelle how the serious and lawyerly looking baby she had photographed now wanted to be an actuary. How the delicately posed baby had signed with the Joffrey Ballet. How did you know? parents would ask. How could you know?

I don’t know, Isabelle would reply. Or sometimes, because it would make the customers happier, she’d lie and say, Ah, I just know.

But she didn’t know. She didn’t know anything. She didn’t even know what was happening in her own life. Within the past year she had found a white filmy scarf in the laundry basket, a silver bracelet in the kitchen, and once, a tampon in the wastebasket when she wasn’t having her period. All of them Luke insisted belonged to friends of his from the bar who’d dropped by. Don’t you think if I was hiding someone, I’d make sure to hide her things, too? he asked. He acted like she was nuts.

She came to his bar some nights and saw him surrounded by beautiful women, laughing, letting their arms drape about his shoulder, but as soon as he saw Isabelle, he shook them off like raindrops and kissed her. But still something felt off, like he wasn’t really there with her.

Three nights ago, a call woke her from a deep sleep, and when she grabbed for the receiver, reaching across Luke, she swore she heard a woman quietly crying. Hello? she whispered and the line went dead. And when she looked beside her, she saw to her shock that Luke’s eyes were open and wet. Baby, what is it? she asked, alarmed. She pulled herself up, staring at him.

Just a dream, he said. Go back to sleep. And he had rolled toward her, one arm on her hip, and in minutes he was asleep, but she lay awake, staring at the ceiling.

Then this very morning, when Luke was at the bar, a woman called her, blurting her name. Isabelle. And then the woman told Isabelle she was Luke’s girlfriend, how she had been his girlfriend for five years. I know all about you, Isabelle, the woman on the phone said. Don’t you think it’s time you knew about me?

Isabelle braced one hand along the kitchen counter.

I’m pregnant and I thought you should know, the woman said.

Isabelle’s legs buckled. Someone’s at the door, she managed to whisper and then she hung up the phone, ignoring it when it rang again.

Pregnant! She and Luke had wanted kids desperately. She had tried to get pregnant for a decade before all the tests and herbs and treatments ground her down. Luke brushed away talk of adoption. Is it the worst thing in the world if you and I don’t have kids? he said. Isabelle thought it was, but she didn’t know what to do about it. She made Luke help her turn the spare room that was supposed to be a nursery into a darkroom, and the only children who lived there were those whose faces she photographed.

At first, when she found out about Luke’s pregnant girlfriend, she thought it was the end of the world. And then she told herself it was only the end of one particular world. She surely deserved better than what she had. She would shed this life like a cocoon.

Now her back aches and she stretches against the seat. Last month, she had gone for a massage, and the masseuse, a young woman with a yellow ponytail, had tapped along her body. You carry stress here, she said, thunking Isabelle’s shoulder blades. Here’s anger. The sides of her hands wedged against Isabelle’s neck. Here’s sorrow, she said, touching Isabelle’s spine, and Isabelle gripped the edge of the massage table, wincing.

Here’s sorrow.

Smile and you’ll feel like smiling, her mother used to tell her. God rewards happiness. At You Must Have Been A Beautiful Baby, people always commented on her smile, bright, glowing, drawing kids to her like iron to a magnet. But she can’t smile now no matter how hard she tries.

Isabelle glances at her watch. It’s midafternoon and she’s getting hungry. Her cell phone rings, but she doesn’t pick it up, half afraid it’s Luke’s girlfriend again. I don’t even know her name, Isabelle thinks. By now Luke is home and has found her letter. Maybe he’s upset, maybe he’s grabbing his jacket and his keys and he’s gone off looking for her, desperate to find her. Maybe he’s furious, smashing dishes on the kitchen floor the way he did when she first told him she wasn’t happy living there, that she felt the Cape was suffocating her. In all the years they’ve been together, he’s never hurt her, never raised a hand or even his voice, but he’s smashed five sets of dishes, broken several glasses and a figurine he had bought her as a joke, a Scottish terrier with a tiny gold chain.

Maybe he isn’t mad. Maybe he’s just relieved. But really, who is she kidding? Of course he isn’t home. Of course he hasn’t read her pathetic letter. Dear Luke, I want a divorce. Find a lawyer instead of me. Isabelle. Of course he’s with this new woman.

With this new baby.

Angrily, she swipes at her eyes. She sees a baby, small and glossy as a pearl, with Luke’s eyes and not hers, and then she shuts her eyes, just for a second, and when she opens them, suddenly, she doesn’t recognize where she is. The road is unfamiliar.

Isabelle turns on the radio. Even though it’s a rock station, Tammy Wynette wails out at her. Oh, good. A heart as battered as hers and all she has to do is sing along as loud as she wants. If Tammy can survive, then so can she. She thinks of the money in her pocket, of her cameras settled in the back, maybe of her mother, welcoming her back, the prodigal daughter. I never liked him, her mother will say about Luke, and Isabelle will hope to hear, too, but I have always loved you. Her mother has lived outside of Boston her whole life, endured her husband dying of a heart attack when he was only thirty, coming out of a Superette carrying groceries, continued on through Isabelle running off with the man who fixed their car, a man she said she knew was trouble from day one.

The fog is heavier now, the visibility terrible. Damn. She knows she’s lost now. It was a mistake to take a side route, but she can always turn around and get back on the highway. Maybe she can stop at a diner, treat herself to a late breakfast, eat everything that’s bad for her, everything she loves: eggs, bacon, sausage.

The darkness gets to her. It doesn’t feel natural at this time of the day, and even though she knows it’s just fog, it feels spooky. Squinting, she tries to see more than a few feet ahead of her, but the fog’s enveloping her, making her increasingly uneasy. She flicks the parking lights on and off to try slice through the darkness and then the fog moves again and she sees, almost like pieces of a torn photo, patches of what’s there. Something red. A glint of chrome.

A car stopped in the center of the road, turned the wrong way, its lights completely dark. A fillip of red dress. She jolts. She knows the stopped car is not moving, but it still seems to be speeding up toward her, anyway, growing larger and larger even as she tries to pull away from it. The road’s too narrow, ringed with tall, thick trees. Her eyes dart on the road, but there’s nowhere to go. There’s no space to turn around, not enough length to stop in time, no matter how she’s pumping her brakes. Oh, Jesus.

Isabelle veers, trying not to hit the trees. The car slows, lurching her forward. Time turns elastic, stretching out, slowing. Then, shocked, she sees a woman with short, spiky, blonde hair, a red dress frilling around her knees, coming into sharp focus, rising up like one of Isabelle’s negatives in the milky developing fluid, and the woman is just standing there, in front of her car, not moving, staring as if she knew this would happen and she was somehow waiting for it. And Isabelle swerves again, harder this time, the tires screeching, her heart clamped.

Get out of the road! Isabelle screams. Frantic, she grips the wheel. What are you doing! she shrieks, but the woman seems pinned in place. In the distance she can hear a voice, like a splash of pennies, and then she sees a child—a child!—a boy with dark flying hair and when he sees her, for a moment, he freezes, too. His eyes lock onto hers and for one terrifying moment, Isabelle feels hypnotized, for one second Isabelle can’t move, either. And then, she smashes on the horn and he startles and bolts across the road, disappearing into the woods, and her car’s going too fast and she can’t stop it. She can’t control it. Her heart tumbles against her ribs. Her breath goes ragged. She’s losing control, and despite herself, she’s praying: God. Jesus. Then she hears the hornet again, which flies past her out into the night and then the woman finally moves, pressing herself back closer to the sedan, and it’s too late, and the two cars slam together like a kiss.

TWO

CHARLIE NASH KNEELED in his backyard, his hands covered with dirt, the fog all around him. His neck was filmed with sweat and the air had a strange, clammy feel, but he wanted to get these plants, the bright showy annuals, the dwarf pear trees with their roots diapered in purple burlap, in the earth to surprise April and Sam when they came home.

Plants want to grow, he always told Sam, all they need is just a little extra help sometimes. He crouched lower, touching the leaves of the strawberry plants. The soil should have been sandier for them, and there were some weeds poking up that he needed to tend to, but all in all, the strawberries would do fine. Well, he thought, plants do their best to stay alive wherever you put them. Just like people.

He got up now and stretched, glancing at his watch again. Nearly six. April would be done with her shift at the Blue Cupcake and just picking Sam up from After School. They’d be home soon.

He felt a prickle of unease. He and April had had an argument that morning and all day it had stayed with him, like a sour taste in his mouth.

Right after breakfast, he had been rushing to get to a job, running late. April was following him from room to room, so that he actually stumbled into her, knocking his funny bone against the doorjamb. When he got to the bedroom and bent to grab his jeans, she snatched his arm, making him stop. Her breath came in little skips. You fell asleep last night while I was talking to you, she said. He looked at her, bewildered. She was usually so understanding when work exhausted him. She’d turn down the bed and plump the pillows, and then kiss him sweetly goodnight. You didn’t hear what I said to you last night, did you?

He zipped the fly of his jeans, and reached for a black T-shirt. She was pale and lovely in the light, but he had no time. We’ll make it up, he told her.

When? She stepped back from him, her face closing like a door. I try to talk and you don’t listen.

Honey, it’s just a busy time right now. What’s with you today?

April shook her head. You have your own company. You could turn jobs away once in a while! You don’t need to work that hard, you just want to. She tugged his arm. Sometimes I feel like I’m not even married anymore.

His nerves were fraying, his stomach burned, and his elbow throbbed. He had three jobs that were late and the clients were furious. He had to call several different suppliers because his usual brought him grade two wood even though he had specified grade one. Ed, his foreman, wanted to show him some problems with the central air that was being installed on yet another job. Charlie couldn’t have this argument right now. And he certainly didn’t want to have it in front of Sam.

Charlie, I’m right here talking to you! April cried, her voice taking on an edge.

Charlie went back into the kitchen, where Sam was staring down at his cereal. Go get your school books, kiddo, he told Sam, You don’t want to be late. He ushered Sam out of the room, and as soon as Sam was gone, he turned back to April. You know what, he said, I don’t know what’s with you today, but I can’t deal with you like this.

She looked at him askance. Fine. Then don’t. Just go if you’re going. Just drive and don’t come back.

When she turned her back to him, he bumped his elbow again. He was so irritated that he couldn’t help it; he snapped. If it wasn’t for Sam, maybe I would just keep driving, he said. It didn’t make him feel any better, barking like that, but he couldn’t shake his annoyance enough to apologize, to make things right. He found and kissed Sam, and then stormed off to his car. Of course, he felt bad as soon as he got in the car. What did she think, that he liked being this tired? That he hadn’t wanted to talk to her last night, to make love to her? He had wanted to. God, he had. Last night, he slid her nightgown from her beautiful shoulders, kissing her breasts, her stomach, the soft swell of her thighs. He fought his exhaustion, but then just as he was stroking her back, she said, Charlie, let’s talk, and his desire switched off. He sat up, had done his best to listen, but Jesus, he was so tired. So tired. Why did they have to talk? Why couldn’t they just feel? Her voice lulled him, the rhythm of it, and he fell asleep.

He hadn’t slept through the night, though. He stirred at four in the morning and April wasn’t in bed. He got up, looking for her, and when he walked past Sam’s room, he saw the door was open and she was sleeping, pale and beautiful, nested in a chair that she had pulled close to Sam’s bed. The two of them looked so peaceful and perfect that he hadn’t wanted to wake her up.

It was an argument, he told himself. It meant nothing. All married couples argued, didn’t they? They fought and made up and then they grew closer.

What was love? What was it really? Sometimes he felt as if he didn’t have a clue. He had fallen in love with April the second he had seen her and they had married within months, the two of them giddy with joy and surprise, hurtling toward their future. They had a child together, and a whole life, and maybe it was stupid to question anything that good, because the truth was that he couldn’t imagine his life without her.

All day he had wanted to call her to apologize. He grabbed for the phone at ten, and then it rang, and it was the suppliers trying to argue with him about the grade of wood they’d given him. I see what I see, he told the supplier. And it isn’t right. He was going to call April again at noon, but then he got a call from Ed, who told him that another job—a kitchen renovation that was supposed to have taken only three days—was running late and Charlie had to go on site and take care of it. By the time things had calmed down, it was time for him to go home. Well, tonight he’d treat his family to someplace special for dinner. He’d woo April back and things would be fine.

Charlie studied the lawn. There, by the fence, he’d put in a little goldfish pond for Sam. Maybe give Sam his own garden. What do you want to grow? he had asked his son. Charlie had brought home books filled with pictures of plants, and for the past few evenings, all they had been doing was looking at and exclaiming over the pictures. Judging from the ones Sam had lingered over, Charlie was sure Sam was going to say roses or azaleas, but instead Sam wrinkled up his nose. A dog, he announced.

Charlie’s heart crumpled. April averted her eyes. He put one hand lightly on his son’s silky hair. We’ll see, he said quietly. It was a lie and he and April both knew it, though Sam, eyes gleaming, bounced about him like a ball. We’ll see. We’ll see what? It was the kind of thing his own father used to say when Charlie had begged for a dog himself, and Charlie had never gotten over thinking his father just might mean yes, even after time had gone on and on and the dog he had yearned for had never materialized. But while Charlie could have cared for a dog, could have slept with the dog, cuddled it, and kissed his fur, Sam had asthma. Put him in a room where a dog had even strolled through and Sam would have an attack. Feed him ice cream that was too cold, give him a day that was too muggy, something that made him laugh a little too hard or cry a little too deeply, and suddenly, terrifyingly, Sam’s lungs clamped shut.

There were too many days at the emergency room, where Pete, Sam’s pulmonologist, would look up and spot Sam and tease him, Hey, Buddy! Hey, Sam! You missed me? You like us so much you came to visit again? You look too healthy to be here, sport! And the thing was, he did look healthy. He was a sturdy nine-year-old boy, with creamy skin and navy blue eyes and a sheath of thick chocolate hair. Looking at him, you wouldn’t know anything was wrong.

People died from asthma. Isn’t that why he and April took Sam for checkups and monitored his breathing with the peak-flow meter every morning? Charlie still marveled that here Sam was, alive in the world. Where in the world did I get such a wonderful boy like you? Charlie asked.

Mars, Sam said. Jupiter. The planet Zyron.

Some doctors said the salt air of the Cape was good for asthma. Another doctor told them to move to a drier climate. The doctors warned to keep Sam’s visits to New York, where his grandparents lived, short because of the pollution.

The doorbell rang, loud and insistent. Even from back here he could hear it. April had her key. He bet it was Jimmy, their paper-boy, a kid who had a crush on April and blushed and dropped the change every time he saw her. The doorbell rang again, more insistently. Hold your horses, Charlie said, and headed for the door. He tripped on one of Sam’s Legos and put it in his pocket and opened the door.

Two cops were standing in front of him glancing awkwardly at each other.

Charles Nash? one asked, and Charlie nodded. A thought flew into his head. Maybe he was about to get sued. It had never happened before, but he knew it could. There was a client who tumbled into a pool he had built and made some threats. Once a man insisted that the grass Charlie had planted had attracted a gopher that bit his dog. But servers brought papers, not police, so why would they be here?

There’s been an accident.

The youngest cop was talking. Charlie couldn’t concentrate. He nodded, but he didn’t know what he was nodding at. He stood out in the heat-soaked day and the cop’s words were an undertow, tugging him

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  • (4/5)
    This was a very enjoyable book. There were little surprises along the way. Makes you think how you would react to a situation like this. She did a great job pulling you into the story and caring about the characters. You understood them. Looking forward to more from Caroline.
  • (4/5)
    April and Isabelle--two unhappy wives who have never met. April, a homemaker with an 8-year-old severely asthmatic son, feels trapped by her circumstances; Isabelle, a childless photographer who married too young, has just discovered her husband is seeing another woman who is pregnant with his child. By pure chance, these two strangers from the same town become linked forever when Isabelle's car strikes and kills April on a foggy road in Connecticut on the day both women separately chose to leave their homes and begin new lives. Sam, April's son, survives with only minor physical injuries.Although based on a somewhat improbable event, Catherine Leavitt's Pictures of You provides an accurate depiction of how guilt and grief can impact a person's ability to move beyond the emotional damage of tragedy and unresolved conflicts. Charlie, now a widower, is so consumed with grief and shock at discovering April was leaving him that he fails to provide the love, care, and comfort Sam so desperately needs. Isabelle, on the other hand, wants so badly to escape the crush of guilt that she fails to consider how allowing herself to meet and fall in love with the victim's family might ultimately affect Sam as well as Charlie. Other peripheral relationships also contribute to the drama of this unusual narrative, as well as the mystery of where April was going when she left Cape Cod that day. Where will this tangle of emotions lead?While there are times when the characters' inner ruminations impede rather than advance the story, Leavitt's remarkable ability to capture certain emotions and scenes with deceptively simple language is worth the price of a few plodding passages. The narrator, Robin Miles, provides an thoroughly enjoyable reading which listeners may find it hard to pull away from the story when other duties call. For those who find Jodi Picoult or Laura Moriarty a bit too heavy, Leavitt's Pictures of You should prove just right.
  • (3/5)
    it ws a believable plot and good ending. no nice bow around the end everyone living happily ever after but hearts got broken like in rea life. the only thing i still dont understand is why april left her family. somehow i missed that explanation.
  • (2/5)
    When I started this book I thought it wasn't great, but it seemed to be going somewhere and I had a feeling it would improve. I went past the Nancy Pearl cut-off point because I kept thinking it was just about to get better. I got past half way and it started to seriously degenerate into a kind of romantic mush of unbelievable plot and characters. I've read other reviewers that say the book ends appropriately (rather than the 'happily ever after' that I felt it was inevitably heading towards), but I couldn't stick it out that far to find out. Also, it seemed like one of those "issue" books which try to teach the readers about a particular health issue - asthma in this case. I don't mind having a health problem featured in a book (Lisa Genova's book about Alzheimer's is a good example of how to do this well), but unfortunately Ms Leavitt overdoes the 'educate the readers' aspect and it just felt like asthma detail was being included for its own sake rather than being an integral part of the story. This is my first reading of a Caroline Leavitt book, and there won't be another.
  • (4/5)
    I liked this book primarily because it dealt with some atypical subject matter. Two women collide in the fog while seemingly trying to "escape" a relationship with their significant other. One woman is killed, the other must live with the aftermath of knowing she killed, albeit accidentally, another man's wife. Woman then forms a relationship with dead woman's husband. It sounds rather simple & almost cheesy, but it's not. There are a lot of complicated emotions thrown in here; people's lives affected. Did I like this book? Yes, I did. It was refreshingly different and what I would consider an honest interpretation of a difficult situation. I liked the ending in that it was not what I had expected, although I'm not sure it brought about the closure I was wanting. And I think I may have titled this book differently (although what, I don't know right off hand...), but it does make me curious about earlier works from an author I previously was not familiar with.
  • (4/5)
    Based on the "blurb," I wasn't sure I was going to like this book. A book about two women in a car crash and the ramifications of that tragedy on the people involved. It sounded depressing and disturbing. As I read the book, I liked the beginning but wasn't sure I was going to like it all. I was concerned that the author would wrap it up in a nice, neat package. By the end, I could not put the book down. It was not a neat package, but rather an honest look at relationships, grief, and the impact of a tragedy. As such, there are moments of happiness and moments of extreme sadness. I will be thinking about this book for a while.
  • (4/5)
    Author, Caroline Leavitt has created a contemporary fiction where two women appear to be running away when their cars collide and ironically, so do their lives. Sam, is the 9 year old boy with asthma who, at the scene of the accident, feels he's seen an image of an angel, and as you read the story perhaps he truly has.Leavitt manages to show depths of each character's own humanity. This allows the reader to see both the good and perhaps the not so good. The author has an uncanny ability to steer the novel thru the tangles of grief. Your heart both rejoices and aches with second chances and missed opportunities. Leavitt had the courage to leave us with a more realistic ending that reminded me to re-examine my own choices while appreciating the heavy weight of regret.My first read by this author in audio format and it was well done.
  • (4/5)
    Isabelle and April, both distraught and driving away from their marriages, collide in the fog. April dies, and Isabelle is left with guilt, even though she is told the accident was not her fault. She becomes fixated on April's husband, Charlie, and her son, Sam. Eventually their lives become intertwined.This is my first book written by Caroline Leavitt, and I loved it. I especially enjoyed the ending.
  • (5/5)
    I had to read this book through tears most of the time. It is so moving, and the characters are so real. I loved how much Charlie adored his wife, and how dedicated he was to his son Sam, even though his grief threatened to engulf him. The writing is sublime. After April's death, when Charlie is asked about the organ donor card found in his wife's wallet, he thinks, "someone else would touch April's skin. Someone else would see through her eyes." Those lines just killed me, and told you all you needed to know about Charlie's love for April. Another line that got me was the author's description of Luke's attraction to the much younger Isabelle. "When he smiled at Isabelle, his eyes were full of light. He looked at her like she was the most interesting thing he had ever seen." You understand why Isabelle became so smitten with Luke; what woman wouldn't want a man to look at her like that? Leavitt uses imagery beautifully in this novel. When Isabelle realizes too late that Luke has been cheating on her, she recalls how he had been nice to her after she found earrings the house that weren't hers or smelled perfume, "how he'd taken her out to a fancy dinner, how he reeled her back in so tenderly that she didn't notice the sharpness of the hook." You can just see Isabelle as the poor fish hooked on Luke's line.Photography plays a big part in the book. Isabelle is a photographer and she teaches Sam how to take photos. It bonds them together, and becomes the one thing that helps Sam overcome his grief and guilt over his mother's death. She tells Sam that photographs sometimes shows things that aren't there, things that you have to look deeper for the hidden meaning. Much of this lovely novel is people realizing they really don't know the ones they love most.I so enjoy when the ending of a book surprises me, and Leavitt does a brilliant job with the resolution of the story. It takes you to unexpected, but satisfactory, places. She jumps forward in time, and lets the reader know how these characters have fared, but leaves enough questions lingering that allows these wonderful characters to live ons. I will not forget Charlie, Isabelle and Sam, and will think of them fondly for a very long time. Pictures of You is a moving, heartbreaking novel about the power of healing and forgiveness, with interesting, yet flawed, characters. Fans of good fiction who want to be taken on an emotional journey should read this book!
  • (4/5)
    Grief may be the messiest of all human emotions. We all grieve differently. Pictures of You is an exploration of grief, of how three survivors - a woman driver, a child passenger and his widowered father - grapple with loss following a fatal car accident in Cape Cod. Neither the father, Charlie, nor the woman driver, Isabelle, can go forward unless issues of the past are dealt with. Meanwhile, Charlie's son, Sam, endures one life-threatening asthma attack after another, while keeping vital secrets to himself and clinging to mystical beliefs.

    Caroline Leavitt does a great job pulling the reader in and keeping up the suspense. The nuanced characters, despite their better judgment, do things they would not normally do, each grappling to find their true center. The simple, restrained prose does not try to teach us how to grieve. It provides an unique portrait of people dealing with the aftermath of unexpected life events, and in Sam and Charlie's case, of ongoing medical challenges as well. Thank you, Caroline.

  • (3/5)
    a little mushier than i like, but a good read. wished it had ended differently!
  • (3/5)
    Pictures of you is a story of love, loss and regret. As Isabelle is driving down a seemingly deserted road on a foggy night, she comes upon a woman in a red dress standing in the middle of the road. Isabelle is not able to stop in time and hits and kills the woman. Little did she know that Charley was hiding alongside the road and saw his mother as the car hit her. There are many unanswered questions. Why were April and her son Charley out on such a deserted road and where were they going? Sam, April's husband and Charley's father begins by hiring a dectective to find some answers.The story goes on to tell of Isabelle's life after the accident and how she is effected, as well as how Charley and Sam, cope with April's death. Caroline Leavitt does a masterful job of expressing the grief that must be worked through due to a tragic loss.I had a hard time with her definition of love. She often had her characters saying "I love you.", but then their actions did not espress that love. Isabelle, Sam and April all seemed a bit too self-centered for me.
  • (2/5)
    Disappointing for me...none of the characters were likeable. Lots of melodrama and bad behavior.
  • (4/5)
    I have loved Caroline Leavitt for a number of years and have read all of her books. I was so excited to read Pictures of You and it was very good! The characters are very well developed and I just could see all their flaws along with all of the wonderful parts. I wanted to yell at them a couple times even. :-) The ending was a bit...left me wanting more I think. It was very realistic which is great but maybe I wanted more. I am not sure. But overall I thoroughly enjoyed it, having trouble putting it down. Go get a copy!
  • (4/5)
    This is the first book of Caroline Leavitt's I've read (or, rather, in this case, listened to--I got the CD version). There's a little bit of everything--romance, personal growth, hurt and healing, and an ending that couldn't have been predicted. I respected Leavitt a lot for that ending. It saved the book from becoming "chick lit". The story revolves around a car accident, and you discover more and more about the inner lives of the characters rippling out from the accident in rings of discoveries. The truth about life is that people have layers--some good and some bad. Leavitt portrays these layers with compassion and understanding, but also an honesty that leaves no one utterly blameless. The book is very well written, compelling and full of interesting histories and motives.
  • (3/5)
    Two women from the same small Cape Cod town collide on a foggy road one morning. Both were leaving their husbands, but only one, Isabelle, survives. Another survivor is the other's severely asthmatic nine-year-old son, also in the accident. He witnesses what he believes to be an angel at the crash-Isabelle. Leavitt tells a compelling story of how the two survivors' lives entwine, partly because of the boy's desire to talk with Isabelle about his mother. Summary BPLLeavitt's characters behave credibly when it comes to loss and grief. Yet I found the novel as a whole an uneven mix of realistic tragedy and unrealistic romance. Grief can cause people to do crazily uncharacteristic things--but falling in love with the woman who killed your wife in a car crash? Um, no. Plot weakness aside, Ms Leavitt's writing itself reveals a subtle, literary style, drawing the reader into her characters' lives. I am interested in trying another of this author's novels; I would like to know whether Pictures of You was a typical product of Ms Leavitt's pen.7 out of 10. Recommended to readers of domestic fiction.
  • (2/5)
    Too much like a soap opera; just when you think the drama peaks, here comes another and another... okay, okay enough already! It becomes hard to believe at that point.

    Once the relationship starts between Charlie and Isabelle, Leavitt fails to even explore any guilt on Isabelle's part. This was a HUGE oversight as anyone in her shoes would have those feelings; sleeping in Charlie's bed, eating dinner at their table, etc. Another misstep, an overprotective dad with a highly asthmatic young son gives him free rein as a latchkey kid while struggling with the recent death of his mother? Hmmmm....

    The book can be summed up in the author's own words (p265), when Isabelle thinks, "I killed a woman. It was an accident. I love the victims. It was an accident."
  • (3/5)
    Two cars collide in the fog, taking the life of one of the women drivers. April and her son Sam were hours from home with a suitcase in the backseat and her husband struggles to come to terms with her death and the affect the accident has on his son. The driver of the other vehicle is Isabelle who also must learn to live with her part of the accident. The lives of these characters intersect and they try to get on with what's left of their lives. Interesting story, somewhat unexciting, but the CD version read by Robin Miles is a good listen.
  • (4/5)
    Two Women running from their life circumstances met on a foggy desolate road when their cars crash into each other. One of them is killed, her son injured. Thus sets the premise of the novel by Caroline Leavitt. The story is told through the eyes of the the son, his father, and the woman driving the other car. As their lives entertwine the author leads us through the emotional journey of loss, forgiveness, and healing. I enjoyed the audiobook and will look for other books she has written.
  • (2/5)
    Unique premise. Not sure how someone involved in fatal accident would interact with the victim's next-of-kin, but this seems a huge 'stretch'.
    It was OK to read and interesting in a not-my-genre type way.
    Thought it left one of the characters 'hanging' at the end.
  • (4/5)
    This story centers around two couples, a car crash, and a young boy. Two women, April and Isabelle, are leaving their husbands. They crash on a foggy, deserted road and April dies. April's son, Sam, was in the car and witnessed the crash. Isabelle blames herself and finds it hard to move on with her life. Isabelle begins walking by Sam's house...just to check on him and they end up becoming friends.All the relationships in this story are quite complicated. I understood why Isabelle left her husband, but couldn't quite understand how April could leave her husbamd and her son. The person I felt most connected to was Sam. He was torn in so many directions and was so confused. I enjoyed listening to this book. I would have liked a different ending, but it did have an ending, so that is something!
  • (4/5)
    Charlie, April and Sam; Luke and Isabelle - two families who never met - but on one fateful day both families are changed forever. For on this day, both April and Isabelle decide to end their marriages. This decision comes to a head three hours away from their Cape Cod town, on a foggy road. One car is spun around, the woman and child standing in the road; the other is approaching, unable to see what is ahead of her until it is far, far too late.How does someone react to the fact that their actions caused a death - everyone feels somehow responsible. How does someone cope with the fact that she is now in love with another woman's family? Can anyone walk away?This is a beach book - plain and simple. It is, however, well written and has a satisfying ending. I would recommend it.
  • (4/5)
    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.
  • (2/5)
    Pictures of You is a novel of accidents, coincidences, and mystery. The lives of Isabelle and April collide one foggy afternoon on a lonely country road. April is killed leaving a bewildered husband and son to try to understand why she was on that lonely road and where she was going. Isabelle, drowning in grief over the accident and the rest of her destroyed life, can't leave April's husband and son alone, becoming more and more involved in the mystery of April's motivations. This chance relationship looks to head either in the direction of salvation or that of destruction, the reader won't know until the end.Pictures of You is an interesting look at the consequences of the choices women make between love, family, and career. Must women sacrifice everything for their children and husbands? How do you balance their needs with your own? And what happens when a woman has given up everything for her family and then discovers it isn't enough? I loved the idea of this book, but had some problems with the execution. The coincidences were just too unlikely for me to believe in them wholeheartedly and the relationships between characters were undeveloped and difficult to relate to. I was especially confused and disturbed by the interactions between Isabelle and her own mother which just never made sense to me. I listened to Pictures of You on audio, narrated by Robin Miles. She does a great job of portraying Isabelle, especially convincing us of her insecurities and confusion. I wish that she had developed different, more distinct voices for the other characters.
  • (4/5)
    I liked this book and really loved the characters, but the end of the book felt like it dragged out and didn’t like the ending, felt she should have let the book end within the time frame that the story took place in, not the future. I will definitely look for more of this authors books because I do love a heart string pulling novel.
  • (4/5)
    I enjoyed Pictures of You by Caroline Leavitt - it was short,quick, and entertaining - but it lacked a certain depth that would have made it a favorite for me. Leavitt touches on some heavy issues - death, grief, adultery, etc., but in some cases makes them seem almost trite.In Pictures of You by Caroline Leavitt, two women, Isabelle and April, are both driving on a foggy road three hours from their home town. They don't know each other, but they are both driving away from their marriages. April's car is mysteriously stopped in the middle of the road, facing the wrong direction, when Isabelle comes upon it too suddenly (because of the fog) to avoid hitting it. April dies instantly and Isabelle is seriously injured. April's son who is also involved, spends some time in the hospital his severe asthma, but is ultimately okay physically. Both April's family and Isabelle must deal with the aftermath of grief, guilt, and mystery that surrounds the accident.My primary complaint about this novel is that while Leavitt tries to create a realistic world, certain aspects of it are not quite believable. In novels that set out to be fantastic, the authors ask the readers from the beginning to suspend their disbelief. As soon as the children in The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe step through the coats and into a snow-filled world, we as readers know we're in for a reality that does not match our own, and so we can accept and believe it when animals start talking and magical things occur. In a novel that is set in our own reality, however, even the smallest inconsistency can take us out of the story.Pictures of YouFor example, after the accident, Isabelle is racked with guilt and becomes depressed, even though the police agree the collision was not her fault - she was not distracted or speeding, the fog would have made it impossible for her to see the car in time, and after all, April's car was stopped in the wrong direction in the middle of the road. But while Isabelle is still in the hospital before any reporters or even the police have had a chance to talk to her, news articles start appearing in the local paper that include her name and photograph (where did they get one and do they have the right to publish it without her permission?).Furthermore, as the weeks pass and Isabelle doesn't come out and discuss the accident with reporters (she's so depressed she won't even leave her house), they start printing articles that flat out blame her for it, with headlines like "Did photographer's road rage cause accident?" The local papers vilify her as the woman who killed a loving mother and wife. Hardly responsible journalism. But it doesn't raise any eyebrows in the novel. You can say, well maybe this town paper is known for it's awful journalism, so it does make sense within the novel's world. If that's the case, Leavitt should have told us that fact up front. It's back story we would need to know to make sense of the story.But the scenario does not end there. For months after the accident, people actually scorn Isabelle in public. When she does finally recover enough to start working her job at a children's photography studio again, she actually runs into more than one parent who refuses to let the "mother killer" take his/her kid's picture. Seriously? Now, I live in a small city with lots of tourism, just like Isabelle, and we, too, have some really slow news days at our local paper. But I cannot imagine so many people holding a grudge that long for something that doesn't make logical sense in the first place. Looking at the facts of the accident, it clearly was not something Isabelle could have prevented. I understand that when you factor in emotion, facts get blurry, but that emotional that long after the event? I'll only believe that if the person was very close to April, and the book tells us that nobody but her husband and son were. The whole thing struck me as unbelievable and really distracted me from the overall story.The second unbelievable scenario that distracted me in Pictures of You was when Sam, April's son, calls information and asks for the number for "Isabelle Stein" in New York City and gets only one result. It doesn't say he gave the address, just the name. Do we really think there is only one listing for Isabelle Stein in New York City? It was too convenient, and all Leavitt needed to do to make it believable was say that Sam also gave Isabelle's address when he called information. We know Isabelle gave it to him.I know these two aspects of the novel are minor, but they are all that come to mind when I start thinking about this book. Plus, the details in the newspaper situation that make it unbelievable are also, I think, unnecessary to the plot or character development. We need to see the guilt building in Isabelle, yes, but that kind of thing is much more powerful when it comes from internal rather than external sources. And, as I've already mentioned, the phone listing issue could have been easily fixed.There were, however, definitely aspects of the novel that I thought were very well done.First, all the scenes from Sam's point of view are excellent. He thinks and grieves like a child. Leavitt does an amazing job getting us into his head to understand his grief experience. I also liked the ending - non-formulaic, realistic, and original.All in all, I enjoyed Pictures of You, but I would have enjoyed it more without the unbelievable bits that distracted me from the story. It was unfortunate that these couple of flaws were all I could think about. Just goes to show how important details are in a book.Originally posted on Read Handed.
  • (2/5)
    While driving down a single lane highway, escaping her own failed marriage, Isabelle suddenly comes upon a car stopped in her lane with a woman getting out. Driving through heavy fog it is impossible for her to stop. The accident kills the other woman. It was not her fault but nonetheless Isabelle is devastated. Not as devastated as she becomes when through the woman’s son she is drawn into the woman’s life and finds herself falling in love with her widowed husband.

    It sounds like a typical “chick-lit” love story, but this book has a bit of a difference. It explores what happens when an accident leads to the uncovering of all kinds of secrets.
  • (5/5)
    Two women disillusioned with their lives, and their husbands, are driving on a fog filled road and in a twist of fate they collide head on and one dies leaving behind a young child. This tragic accident is the framework of Caroline Leavitt’s moving novel Pictures of You. The inside look at both families before and in the aftermath of the accident, is emotionally honest, it is also emotionally messy. Grief takes time. Her survivors relive the tragic moments of their lives, and they ask universal questions over and over about why bad things happen. Can you ever heal from this type heartbreak? Will love break through the fear? From the opening pages, this story pulls you right into an unforgettable journey while unraveling a mystery of one woman’s secret life. I couldn’t put down this engaging read.
  • (4/5)
    Imagine you are leaving your husband. You could either be leaving because he’s had an affair and gotten another woman pregnant after years of dealing with your own infertility or because the marriage and motherhood is killing your soul. Imagine you’re the first woman driving to New York to start a new life. Imagine you’re the second woman and you’re forced to stop on the road on your way to your destination because your young asthmatic son stowed away in the car unbeknownst to you, messing up your plans entirely. Now imagine an accident involving both women and you are the one to survive. You are that first, childless woman, who has left that sick little boy without a mother. How can you even imagine you’ll survive the guilt and remorse that isn’t made any lighter knowing that it all was one horrible accident?When I first started driver’s training I worried about being involved in a fatal accident. Even if it wasn’t my fault, there’s the guilt. How do you forgot it. Those worries were brought back to the forefront with Pictures of You. That the women were both running away from similar ghosts made the accident all the more poignant. It also brings up something that adults often forget – children don’t always understand what’s happen and live with a damaging guilt all their own. My heart broke equally for Isabelle, Sam and his father Charlie. For April, not so much, though. I can’t pinpoint if it is because of her character or the fact that it’s much easier to leave than to be left behind.Pictures of You isn’t told in a linear fashion. At the beginning you get a rough snapshot of Isabelle’s experiences before and after the accident. The husband she left did what he could to take care of her, but even in what was among her darkest moments, she knew that the two of them had no future together. The accident even brings the terse relationship with her mother to new lows. She hides herself away in the home she shared with her husband, spurning friends, and somehow trying to deal with the community’s reaction to what happened. She wasn’t portrayed in the greatest light and her refusal to speak to the media. Ultimately, it costs her job and pieces of her sanity.Meanwhile, Charlie and Sam are living in another sort of hell. Charlie was completely blindsided by the accident. He couldn’t understand why April had excused Sam from school or where she was taking him at the time. Sam, living inside his own guilt-ridden head, isn’t answering questions. The more that Charlie learns about the accident, the more the reader does as well. One thing is certain, he didn’t want Isabelle to have anything to do with Sam, no matter how Sam seeks her out. It isn't until he realizes the power of their connection that he relents. He doesn’t want Sam to get hurt. At the same time, he doesn’t want to be left behind anymore than he already has been.Pictures of You arrived as an unexpected delight from Algonquin Books. As soon as I picked it up, I knew I had to read it. There was just something about the cover and the synopsis that drew me to it. Once I started reading, I didn’t want to put it down. Carolyn Leavitt is a gorgeous writer and her story illuminates the ongoing trauma caused by both fatal car accidents and broken marriages. First you have to decide that you want to survive, but ultimately that’s not enough. From there, everyday you have to learn how to make it happen. Leavitt doesn't punish her characters, but she makes them work for their lives. I loved every minute of it.
  • (4/5)
    A tragic car crash leaves one driver (April) dead and the other driver (Isabelle) distraught and reeling with the guilt of killing a mother and wife.I found myself wondering if I would act as Isabelle did after the terrible accident. Would I have the nerve to approach the grieving father and son for more than an apology? Would Charlie and Sam be able to interact on any level with the woman who was responsible for killing April? And what would happen if they could?Isabelle, Charlie and Sam are fleshed out in such a way that I understood the motivation of each character. Isabel was fleeing a failed marriage to the only man she’d ever loved. Charlie knew things hadn’t been great with April and they’d even had words the last time they saw each other. Sam has a secret that eats away at him. He seemed so lost and unable to ask for help. I felt sympathy for all three.Caroline Leavitt’s novel is mesmerizing – I didn’t want to stop reading. I wanted to know where she was taking her characters. How would things end for Sam, Charlie and Isabelle? Would there be a chance for them to be happy or content – together or on their own? I must say I was surprised by a few twists near the end of the book. They would definitely prompt some interesting discussions for book groups.One issue that came up for me after finishing was the timing of the novel. When did the bulk of the story take place? I was unsure about it and that bothered me a bit.I enjoyed Leavitt’s writing and will definitely look for more of her books. Robin Miles’ narration was wonderful. She was easy to listen to and the voices she gave the characters worked for me.