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The Big Picture Hardcover – April 1, 1997

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Oscar Wilde once said that the only real tragedy in life is getting what you want. Ben Bradford, the protagonist of Douglas Kennedy's new novel, The Big Picture, is living proof of that adage. At the start of Kennedy's novel, Ben Bradford would appear to have it all: a beautiful wife, a big suburban home, two kids and a partnership in a prestigious New York law firm. But Ben's heart lies neither with his family nor his career. Instead, he dreams of being a photographer, and when he discovers his wife is having an affair with the man next door--who happens to be a photographer--Ben snaps and commits an act that will commit him to a whole new way of life, forever.

Kennedy threads his tale of obsession, murder, and identity with themes that resonate strongly today: what compromises are worth making? What sacrifices require too much? The Big Picture is both a thriller and a cautionary tale concerning the complexities of modern life.

From Publishers Weekly

This astonishingly assured first novel, by an American working in London as a journalist, has a breathless readability that is rare-particularly as it seems at first to cover pretty familiar territory. Ben Bradford is a Wall Street lawyer living a comfortable life in Connecticut, with a wife and two small children, but he seems to be heading, rather early, for a midlife crisis. He had always wanted to be a photographer, still putters around at it, but feels his life is ebbing away. Beth, his wife, a frustrated novelist, is increasingly estranged from him. Then Ben discovers she has taken a lover-ironically, another failed photographer-and in a confrontation with the man, Gary Summers, Ben's accumulated rage leads to a moment of murderous madness. Both Beth's infatuation with Gary and Ben's maniacal rage seem rather out of character, but with that caveat, the rest of this headlong novel grips like a vise as Ben carefully covers up his crime, disappears and takes on his victim's identity. The Big Picture has to be the most careful and imaginative exploration of such a situation ever penned, from the details of how one convincingly contrives an apparent accidental death to the minutiae of building a new life, unrecognized, in a far place. In Ben's case, it is a small town in Montana, and his born-again existence there is rich in ironies, from his eventual success as a photographer to his ultimate need to disappear yet again. The book is more than just a compelling read: it also has poignant and moving things to say about lost opportunities and wasted lives in America, the cynical quality of sudden fame, the awfulness of willed separation from deeply loved children. There is a lot of excitement in the air about Kennedy's novel, and it is thoroughly justified. 400,000 first printing; $750,000 ad/promo; Literary Guild and Doubleday Book Club selection; film rights to Fox2000
Copyright 1996 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Hyperion; 1st edition (April 1, 1997)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 078686298X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0786862986
  • Product Dimensions: 6.4 x 1.4 x 9.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (262 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #971,776 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Douglas Kennedy is the author of ten novels, including the international bestseller Leaving the World and The Moment. His work has been translated into 22 languages, and in 2007 he received the French decoration of Chevalier de l'Ordre des Arts et des Lettres. Born in Manhattan, he now has homes in London, Paris, and Maine, and has two children.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

55 of 65 people found the following review helpful By Penelope Card on March 8, 2000
Format: Hardcover
The Big Picture gives one the message, do not overlook the simple things of life, the example of the railway track and the stone, shows that, any action done well, and well explored, can lead to greater things and opportunities of life. Dr. Carson does go into great details of his life's experiences. By the details, I can see similarities between his and mine. In fact, by practicing those household principles his mother taught him, I have been successful in raising two boys to be responsible men. He shows that anyone can live life to its fullest. As Jesus said "He came to give the abundant life." When one lives by Godly principles,success is available to all. Dr Carson gives honor and glory to the best in his life, i.e. honor to his mother, and he gives glory to God. The Big Picture demonstrates that if one man could touch the world with his God given talents, we could all strive to empower others with the same enthusiasm. Everyone can be the victor, and not a victim regardless of one's beginnings. Ben. Carson demonstrates that though we have no choice in our birth condition,and challenges, whether a challenge is of physical, economic, educational or racial origin, we can all contribute to improving our lot in life, and the lot of others globally, by using our brain to educate ourselves, and others, such as our children. The choices we make will in some way impact the world. As consumers of health care, we as individuals have the last say as to whom we wish to provide care,we need to walk the extra mile , and be proactive in achieving compassionate action, for our families and for our community.
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28 of 32 people found the following review helpful By Connie Buchanan (cbuch2000@aol.com) on October 26, 1999
Format: Audio Cassette
This book goes deep inside the heart and soul of the common person. Ben Carson proves that we can rise above our worst infirmity and become whatever we want to be through sheer tenacity and perseverance of will to be more than a mediocre human being. His mother was a lot like my mother. Our mothers taught us to think for ourselves and not to follow the crowd. They also encouraged us to be whatever we wanted to be in life. I found the book clearly illuminating, that is why I want to buy the audiocassett.
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16 of 18 people found the following review helpful By C. oliver on April 2, 2010
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I am impressed with Ben Carson. I am black and a christian. This book and others of his should be required reading for young people, espically black. He shows going somewhere in life is possible and gives helpful information. Many black people are on a high with the election of a black president but I feel Dr. Carson is a much more relevent model. I rarely see anything about him during black history month, thats is to bad. He is the kind of example I wish I could have shown my daughter and that I wish my grandchildren were awear of. I am trying to get them to read at least one of his books.
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18 of 21 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on April 13, 1999
Format: Hardcover
Regardless of the age of your children, all parents should read this book. Dr. Carson is a Christian man who believes in excellence. This book is good for teachers, ministers, laity, and anyone else who is interested in bringing out the best in children of all ages.
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12 of 14 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on December 20, 2003
Format: Audio Cassette
This book should be a MUST READ for every parent and teacher as Dr Carson shares from his own experiences how he was motivated as a poor student to become a well known and respected pediatric neurosurgeon at Johns Hopkins Hospital. With fascinating stories from his personal and professional life, Dr Carson weaves his wisdom with great suggestions for the racial, education and health care ills that plague our society today. It is a book you can't put down once you start reading it.
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16 of 20 people found the following review helpful By Nichole Carter (elsar_moniet@yahoo.com) on July 5, 1999
Format: Audio Cassette
I read Dr. Carson's first two books and thought they were really good. But then I read The Big Picture and it was really great. I am a firm believer in the Bible but have a hard time seeing that BIG PICTURE. Ben Carson did a wonderful job in conveying what the Big Picture is suppose to look like for those of us who have a hard time seeing it. Reading the book is one thing - doing what is says in there is another. After reading this book, my thinking has changed and my life with it. If anybody is questioning their life in any way, this book is a must.
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26 of 34 people found the following review helpful By M. A. Ramos VINE VOICE on June 27, 2005
Format: Hardcover
The central character, Ben Bradford, seems to have it all. A beautiful wife, a big suburban home, two kids and a partnership in a prestigious New York Wall Street Law Firm. But neither he nor his wife seem to understand that. Instead of enjoying and being grateful for what they have, they still pine for what could have been. He as a photographer and her as a novelist. His wife blames him for everything that has happened in their life. And he accepts that blame and lets it tear him up internally. This leads to a very tense household which seems to drive Ben into an early midlife crisis and his wife into the arms of a neighbor.

Ben finally confronts his wifes lover which unexpectantly turns ugly. We see how one impulsive act can change your life in an instance. And you are left with a decision. Do you stand up and face the consequences of your actions? Or do you run and hide, forever looking over your shoulder?

Once you start to read this book, you will want to keep reading until you finish it. I read it in one day.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Erik Smith on October 3, 2000
Format: Hardcover
It's hard to believe all the superlatives being heaped on this book. The Big Picture offers a picture of a yuppie-in-crisis that's been done better elsewhere, and also the hoary old plot about a man who adopts a new identity, goes into hiding, and then is threatened with exposure. Many of the featured players are a bit on the "stock" side, and the ending is absurdly pat.
If you were to evaluate this novel on its literary merits you would certainly have to turn thumbs-down. But really, that's the wrong way to see it. It's a page-turner, nothing more, and it is much more ambitious and successful than most of the books on the supermarket paperback rack.
Since this book is more than three years old as I write this, I suspect most of the people turning to this review section have already read the novel and are looking for confirmation of their own opinions, and aren't simply looking for guidance in their reading selections. So let me make an observation about one of the things that bothers me the most: The newspaper background in the final portion of the book just doesn't ring true.
The newspaper columnist is completely unrealistic, because no newspaper would tolerate his wild, drunken behavior. A small-town newspaper such as "The Montanan," evidently modeled after the "The Missoulan," wouldn't have the resources to be able to carry an out-of-control columnist on its staff. Let's face it: Small rural towns are more conservative than big cities, not more tolerant. Equally absurd is the character's assertion that he received a job offer from a button-down corporate outfit like the Seattle Times. This statement is presented without any balancing skepticism.
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