Pictures of You by Caroline Leavitt was the latest pick for the Anderson Family Book Club. And opinions on this one ranged from indifference to almost outright disdain. Which was a shame because we had all eagerly anticipated reading this book and several of us were hoping to read it on our own even if it wasn’t selected for book club. Let me provide the summary:
In Leavitt’s (Girls in Trouble, 2005) compelling new novel, a car crash provides the catalyst for an examination of how well we know the people we love. April and Isabelle, both fleeing their marriages, collide on a foggy, deserted stretch of road. Only Isabelle survives, and though blameless, she is haunted by guilt. In search of healing, she finds herself drawn to Charlie and Sam, April’s grief-stricken husband and son. Complicated relationships develop, and Leavitt thoughtfully handles friendship and romance in scenes of emotional resonance. She understands the ache of loss, the elusiveness of forgiveness, and the triteness of words like “closure.” An expert storyteller, Leavitt alternates perspective among her three leading characters, providing insight into the thoughts, secrets, and dreams that they withhold from each other. Whether these individuals will arrive at happiness separately or together is the question that drives the narrative, and the reader, forward as Leavitt teases suspense out of the greatest mystery of all—the workings of the human heart.
Sounds nice, right? Was not. Was bad. Bad bad. Here are my reasons why:
- Dislikable Characters- neither April or Isabelle are likable. Neither have many redeeming qualities. April leaves her family for a reason never explained, and as she is described in retrospect after her death, she seems immature, selfish, and maybe a little crazy. Isabelle basically becomes the main character after the accident. She will not leave April’s widower and son alone! I mean it is creepy!
- Characters’ motivations are underdeveloped- as mention in #1, I never got a great sense of why April ran away from her family. I never understood why Isabelle was stalking this other family. And I just didn’t care about the host of secondary characters; they were two-dimensional.
- Implausibility, cliches, and coincidences- I can only believe people can “run into each other” so many times, you know?
- Pace was “rushed”- I am a firm believer that pacing and timing are integral to the mood of a novel. I love a fast-pasted thriller, or the slow-building of a scary story or even a romance. This was just rushed. And in the rush there were numerous inconsistencies that were never address and resolved. Made the writing seem lazy and unplanned.
- Strange ending- the book ends with Sam as an adult. It was strangely out of place. It did not end anything to the story, and it certainly did not tie up loose ends. It felt tacked on.
Okeedokee, that’s how I felt about the book. It was also the general consensus in our book club. Which was very interesting- we often agree on books we like, but never have we all disliked the same book! Hopefully the next book club selection will be more enjoyable.