It seems like lately, I’ve been reading a lot of novels about marital infidelity. “What’s up with that?” one may ask. Well, different genres and themes come to me in waves, sort of. I would read literary novels galore, and then switch to mysteries, then to war stories, and stories about art, and then to stories about love and family. Rarely do I have a reading list (if I do, it comprises no more than five or six must-read books), so sometimes I choose authors by their praise on a jacket of a novel that I’ve just finished. And quite often they happen to write in the same genre or explore the same themes.
Pictures of You is about love and disillusionment, loss and grief, betrayal and guilt, forgiveness, or inability to forgive. The main episode setting off the chain of events is a collision on the road, involving two women drivers and a child. One woman (Isabelle) drives away from her philandering husband, quitting her marriage, and the other one (April) flees from her loving husband, because she’s emotionally drained. (The reason? It’s for the reader to find out.) No one can determine the cause of the accident with absolute certainty, but of course there are all kinds of speculations.
The media calls this tragedy a “tale of two suitcases.” Which is an interesting way to explain it, and which, in my humble opinion, would’ve been a perfect title for this novel, because these suitcases collide literally and figuratively. Literally, because there is one suitcase in each car during the crash. Figuratively, because they represent two women, two destinies, two unfulfilled marriages and failed dreams; and because their impact changes the lives of these two women and their families.
Caroline Leavitt raises the universal questions that resonate with many of us. How much can you really love another person? How much are you willing to sacrifice for that person? How well can you really know another person, even the one you love deeply? Can you forgive the betrayal of your beloved? Also, it’s about the meaningful and life-changing connections that we often ponder. According to one of the characters (well, the author), “…the universe [is] making connections for you, showing you that not only [are] there no coincidences, but they [have] real meanings and importance.” 288
It’s true, isn’t it?
Overall, Pictures of You is an engaging, suspenseful story. It may seem both unpredictable and not so. You may find certain aspects disappointing, and certain things a bit contradictory or not quite plausible. It all depends on your take. I personally liked the first half of the novel better than the second half. And the last chapter seemed a bit of a stretch to me. Needless to say, I would love to discuss all these points with other readers. 🙂
My favorite line: “You could look at anything any number of ways and angles, so you might as well look at it the good way, the way that was most meaningful to you personally.” 310