Saturday, March 5, 2011

Book Review - Pictures of You by Caroline Leavitt


Title: Pictures of You 
Author: Caroline Leavitt
Year: 2011
Page: 320
Genre: Fiction

FTC Disclosure: Free copy from the publisher Algonquin

Summary (from
Two women running away from their marriages collide on a foggy highway, killing one of them. The survivor is left to pick up the pieces, not only of her own life, but also must go back and deal with the devastated husband and fragile, asthmatic son the other woman left behind. Together, they try to solve the mystery of where April was running to, and why. By turns riveting and unsettling, Pictures of You looks at the choices women make-the roads they choose-to be loved.

First Sentence:
There's a hornet in the car.

My Thoughts:

Why this book?
  • I first heard about this book from a blog (where else? and sorry I forgot to mark down whose blog it was). I borrowed it from the library, but had to return it as someone else had reserved it before I had a chance to read. So when Gayle from Everyday I Write The Book chose this book as her February book club and that all participant would receive a free book from the publisher, I decided to join. I was drawn to this book because I am a photographer and one of the protagonists was a photographer. Jodi Picoult also gave a blurb, "magically written, heartbreakingly honest... Caroline Leavitt is one of those fabulous incisive writers you read and then ask yourself, Where has she been all my life?"  Now, I had only read 2 Picoult books - liked one a lot, and disliked the other one. But I thought I would still give it a try as I read lots of good reviews on blogsphere.
First thought:
  • Disappointed. Definitely a character-driven novel, and not plot driven.
Cover Art:
  • I didn't like it. I thought the wings on the camera looked cheesy. I understood why the camera and wings were chosen, but I just did not like the execution. Not a book I would've picked off the shelf based on its cover. 
  • Better than the cover art
  • I finished this book in two (work) days, so the writing did draw me in and it was a fast read. 
  • Too much coincidences... but I guess sometimes even in real life there are some amazing coincidences that you just don't know how to explain other than "it's meant to be"... so they didn't me bother me too much. I guess in a fictional story they just seemed too convenient
  • There was a bit of a twist to the story (where April was driving to) but it wasn't overly shocking
  • I did like the ending because it could have gone into a different direction and I would dislike the book more if I did
  • Overall, I thought there wasn't enough of a plot for me, since it's a plot you could summarize in a few sentences... 
  • Felt indifferent about the characters, even the child, Sam... The best part I thought was that Sam thought Isabelle was an angel (kinda bittersweet)
  • Some of the characters weren't developed well or their stories were not explained fully... e.g. what happened when Sam found out the truth about Isabelle? How about Teddy - his sub-stories weren't finished... 
  • Charles were too selfish for me... April's behavior weren't well explained... and Isabelle the photographer... well I guess if I have to choose one character I liked the best it probably was her since she seemed to be the most developed, compared to others. I was disappointed about her photography though (a bit too cliche) 
  • I still don't understand why authors would choose the same name for different characters in a book when there are absolutely no reasons too (e.g. isn't a twist or have some hidden meaning etc.): one of the main protagonists was Charles, another protagonist's boss was Chuck.  The investigator was named Hank, as was someone Charles worked with...
    • I couldn't quite decide if the last chapter (almost like an epilogue) was necessary or not... in a way I liked things to feel "finish" (or have a resolution of sort) but on the other hand it was a bit abrupt.
    • Unlike Picoult, I didn't find it that heartbreaking. Yes the premise is sad, but my heartstrings weren't pulled 
    What I Learned:
    • Once again it confirms my dislike to character-driven novels... 
    • If you want to read what Galye's online book club readers thought of this book (I have to say mostly positive, which does not surprise me since I am usually in the minority), read the comments here

    Read this Author again?
    • Not sure if I would...
    "Sometimes you think you see things that aren't there," Charlie said quietly. "Sometimes you wish for them to be there so much, you believe that they are." (p232)

    Overall Rating:
    2 Stars. Not for me, but I know others would enjoy it (if you like character-driven stories.)

    All reviews and posts are copyrighted by Christa @ Mental Foodie. Please do not use or reprint them without written permission.


    1. Well, I'm glad I came by your review. I've been hearing how awesome this book is, and so I was hoping to see if there's anything in this book I may not like that much. (I wasn't too sure entirely that this book may be for me.) I read about the coincidences in another blog - I know there are coincidences in life, but one too many of them will make me not want to read it. Same goes for too many twists.

    2. I have been on the fence for this one Christa, thinking will I really like this one, I am going to pass.

      I like when characters are great but I definitely need plot.

      BTW - I am loving the Stroke book but at times it is so medical I end up putting it down, can't wait to finish. It is helping me deal with my brother though so thanks again for the recommendation.

    3. @Aths - I agree, too many coincidences or twists just mean it unrealistic. I thought this book would be a slower read, and was surprised I finished it as fast as I did. Some thought it has some magical realism in it, and I didn't quite agree. I think one of the readers in the online book club thought this book has too much plot, while I felt the opposite! So interesting to read everyone's take on it. Have you finished Little Princes yet?

      @Marce - I could summarize the plot for you if you want lol :) I definitely think there need to be some character development so you get to know the characters, or at least feel something about them. I agree that Stroke is not the best memoir out there - there were parts I was bored with (like you said, the medical/scientific part). I wish she documented more about her personal recovery - who knows, maybe it's an side-affect of her stroke? I am glad to hear it helps you. Take care of yourself. All the best to your family.