The February EDIWTB book club pick was Pictures of You by Caroline Leavitt. Pictures of You explores how one fatal car accident changes the lives of two women escaping from their lives on Cape Cod. April, married to Charlie and mother to Sam, mysteriously parks her car going the wrong way on a Connecticut road in deep fog. Isabelle, wife to Luke, finds herself driving down that same road on the same foggy day, and slams into April's car. The sad aftermath of that accident has ramifications for Isabelle, Charlie and Sam, for the rest of their lives, which Leavitt explores sensitively and poignantly.
Leavitt is a master storyteller. I am a slooow reader, but I had a hard time putting this book down and read it much more quickly than I usually get through 300+ plus page books. There were key elements in the story which she didn't reveal until very late in the book – elements which significantly affected my feelings about one of the characters – and I loved that plot twist. I found Pictures of You to be unpredictable – it surprised me at several turns and made me want to keep reading.
I liked Leavitt's depiction of the different kinds of love we can experience – love for a child, love for a longterm spouse, love fueled by passion or grief, forbidden love, and platonic love. I think she did a nice job of differentiating the many relationships in the book and exploring their limits and intensity.
Some reviews have mentioned that there are supernatural elements to the story. I didn't see it that way. In fact, I liked that it was grounded in realism – the messy, imperfect realism that makes our lives go in directions we don't always choose. While Sam wants desperately to believe in angels when he is processing his mother's death, I don't think Leavitt meant to suggest that April was truly present, in any form. I have a very low tolerance level for fantasy or otherworldly plot points, and I wasn't bothered at all by Leavitt's story in that respect.
However, I did find some of the coincidences to be a too convenient. No one remarked on how unlikely it was that two women from the same small Cape Cod town would collide on a remote Connecticut street hours away. I had a hard time with Isabelle happening across a flyer for a photography course in New York City that was posted in her small-town bookstore. (Um, really?) And of course, Isabelle ends up falling for the guy who owns the restaurant she just happens to walk by on her way home from a New Year's Eve party. I know that Leavitt could have found away to construct this story without these contrivances, and it would have made for a more powerful book for me.
That said, I did truly enjoy reading Pictures of You. It kept me turning those pages and eagerly absorbing the storyline and Leavitt's memorable characters.
Thank you to Algonquin for supplying the books for the EDIWTB book club.
So, EDIWTB readers - what did you think?