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Pictures of You by Caroline Leavitt

Pictures of You is the first book by Caroline Leavitt that I've read.  It's a story that sucks you in and makes the book hard to put down until the very last page because you're just hoping really hard that things will end up the way you want them for the two main adult characters.  I must admit that in the end, that is in the book's end, I felt a huge let down.  While the author says the book ends the way it does so that readers will think about the characters afterwards and what might come next for them after the end of the book, that is not what I thought about when the book ended.  I thought why?  Why is this book?  What is the point of the entire book if that is how it is going to end?  WHY?  I'm really writing this into more of a big deal than it is to me--I was disappointed in the ending.  It gives me pause about trying out Leavitt's other books--will their endings disappoint me too?  I figure I'll try out one and see how it goes, but if the disappointing endings become epidemic, I'll have to give her up.

April and Isabelle are both from Cape Cod and are both women on the run from their respective marriages when their cars collide on a faraway, fog shrouded road.  Of the two women only Isabelle walks away while April leaves behind a husband and an eight year old son sick with asthma to grieve her sudden inexplicable death.  Isabelle, already devastated by the sudden revelation of her husband's long term infidelity, is shattered by the car accident and the weight she carries over April's death.  Charlie and Sam, April's husband and son, struggle amid their grief with the unexplained questions April left in her wake.  Why was she on that road to begin with?  Why was there a suitcase in her car?  And where was she headed?

As Isabelle grieves and struggles to move on with her life she forms a bond with Sam after a chance encounter.  Soon Sam is seeking her out despite his father's admonishments to stay away from her.  Then Charlie realizes that Sam's doing better after his visits with Isabelle, and Charlie decides to put his son's needs first and allow him to spend time with Isabelle.

Both Isabelle and April are the product of dysfunctional parents and childhood traumas.  While Isabelle seems to have grown into a relatively well adjusted adult, April, as her story is told, is revealed to be unstable, dysfunctional and insecure in ways even her husband and son were unaware.

Back to the ending.  I have mixed feelings about it--it's not your typical happy ending for either character.  It's not that I need everything tied up in a neat little bow with sparkles on top, but I also don't want it ending with the characters settling and forever being passing ships in the ocean.  It's heart-wrenching and frustrating that ultimately Sam finds out that he was lied to by both his mother and his father about different things at different times for different reasons.  Now I'm done obsessing over the ending.  And I really don't know if I should end this with my customary recommendation.  Maybe you should read it yourself so you can decide.  Let me know whether you would recommend this novel in the comments.

--Reviewed by Ms. Angie


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