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on January 26, 2011
Caroline Leavitt's Pictures of You is a story of love--love lost, love wished for, love misunderstood. It's about grief, and regret and forgiveness. Most of all, her mastery lies in her ability to reveal the deep, hidden emotional life of her characters (young Sam, his father, their mother who dies in a car crash, and the woman who doesn't die in the crash). As a reader, you will feel privileged to witness their struggles, and will take these people on as your own. Beautifully rendered.
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on December 4, 2010
I don't want to give it away, but this is a absolute show-stopper of a novel with insights into the human condition that defy any attempts to put it down. i bought it for my Kindle i-Phone app and promptly spent the next six hours inhaling every word. my GOD. and you know how you slow down when a great read starts to come to an end. i did that. uh huh. love story, thriller, paranormal and yet relevant to our times, and it al seemed so effortless, as though i were watching a film. this masterful novel breaks your heart amd yet lifts you -- all told, it reminds me of a blend of Jodi Picoult, Stephen King and Elizabeth Berg, with a dash of what can only be termed Leavitt-y. funny, amazing, strange and beautiful, and now I see VANITY FAIR has named it as a hot read for Jan 2011. I'll say. I'm recommending this one to everyone I know who asks, "What should I read next?" LORD HAVE MERCY Caroline Leavitt is on fire and please, don't let anyone put her out, because I need to know what is next, like i need her next book RIGHT. NOW. POY is just delicious and powerfully told -- these were real people to me. the mystery kept on and on and yet never felt strained or obtuse. more, more, more, more.
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on December 19, 2010
This is a deeply satisfying read that shows the many facets of love. Examining the survivors of a fatal car crash, Leavitt explores grief, guilt, secrets, and disappointments in a cast of sympathetic characters who become so entangled, it's not clear to anyone what decisions are the right ones to make. I highly recommend this book, which feels like an easy read and yet works profoundly on the soul.
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on January 11, 2011
I chose this book because of the Oprah review and the praise of other Amazon readers. But while I was intrigued in the beginning, I quickly became frustrated with the plot. That two women from the same town could be involved in an accident on a back road 3 hours away, is just too much of a coincidence. It bothered me that such an extraordinary coincidence was never really acknowledged in the book. (Why not just stage the accident on their way off the cape?) I thought the book was building toward some connection between the two women, but when that never came, it just became so far fetched for me. The characters were poorly developed and flat and every time they had a strong emotion, it was described in physical terms I could not relate to. There were sudden headaches or things knocking around in a character's chest to signify that something emotional was happening to them. ("Something in his heart clicked" stood out as particularly odd).

Sam is 9 and when he returns to school after his mother's death, he tells his father he doesn't need to go to the after school program, that his mother let him stay alone. In Massachusetts a 9 year old cannot be left home alone. It would be considered neglect. This concerned father doesn't know where his son with chronic asthma is after school? He doesn't know who his friends are? And while 9 is too young to be left unsupervised to roam the town as he does, it's a bit too old for believing that a woman is an angel and has wings rustling underneath her coat. I didn't believe that he would remember Isabelle so intensely 20 years later, or that at the age of 30 he would be written up as one of the best doctors in Boston, or that at 25 he had already lost a 40 yr old patient during childbirth.

Only the mystery of where April was going when she died kept me reading. But on finding out, I realized that nothing else really happened on the rest of the pages. I'm sure Leavitt is capable of good story telling based on the praise for her here and for her previous books. I just didn't find it in Pictures of You.
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on August 7, 2011
I purchased the book for my Kindle based on a recommendation I found in Newsweek. I soon came to regret that I didn't get the free sample first! I usually like topics like loss and tragic events, but not in a style that is begging to be turned into the next Hallmark movie. Everything is trite and predictable, there is nothing new in this book and the events and emotions are described in a simplistic way and with a cheesy tone. The way the characters are developed and described made me not like them, not even the little boy. To compare this book with two books I absolutely loved, "ROOM" and "The Lovely Bones", "Pictures of you" comes acroos like high-school writing at best. The author doesn't expect any intelligence in the reader either, there is something in the writing - and I sensed that from other reader's reviews also - that almost makes you angry. There is absolutely no wisdom in this book, it seems that women's happiness comes from the love of a man and a child alone. People's feelings are very black and white and one-dimensional, either they "love someone very much", or they don't and then they leave. This book is basically an illustration of uneducated people with codependency issues. This would be OK if the author would ask the right questions and open the horizon of the reader, but I didn't see any of that. It just made me dislike the characters and I was asking my selfwhy I should read about them. In addition, nothing in the plot is plausible, which I can forgive easily if the writing is good, but in this book it just made me cringe. I had the hardest time finishing the book, and the only reason I did is to write this review.
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on September 7, 2011
Very shallow storytelling at best. Honestly, I gave it a try and made it to about one-third of the way with this book. Once I found myself skimming paragraphs and skipping pages just to find out what the next significant event in the plot was, I knew it was officially a poorly written story and would not finish it. This is the second book that I've tried reading that was written by someone in the book industry (Friday Night Knitting Club) and I am convinced that the rave reviews and mild success comes from being well connected. The back cover description along with the beginning story of the accident in the fog intrigued me enough to get me started but after a while I was finding that the characters were annoying and so was the writing. Characters were very flat and I found that the author was just 'telling' me about the story, and 'telling' me what the characters were feeling rather than emotionally engaging me as a reader. And it was all happening at. such. a. slow. pace. that I wanted to hit the fast-forward button. Hint: if you get to the page and half describing the woman's pet turtle and find yourself wanting to take a break from the book and go hang out with the turtle instead, then, yep, put the book down!
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on April 9, 2011
From the opening chapters, I became very interested in the characters of Isabelle, who driving in bad weather, kills a young mother, April. The consequences of this accident and the impact it has on those who were involved or knew April, are covered in excellent and believable story telling. Isabelle then begins a fascination and later an attachment to April's family - husband Charlie and young son, Sam. That connection was very interesting and I eagerly awaited finding out how it would end and how such a relationship could work.

About three quarters in to the book (or maybe a bit later), the author jumps the storyline 20 years ahead. This comes as a very unexpected development in the story, as we are just learning more about Isabelle and her life, plus April's life before her death. I am not sure the reasoning behind such a sudden leap in time, and think the book lost a little at this rush to the future. The beautiful build up of characters, were all of a sudden cut off too abruptly and without as much explanation as I would have liked.

But, despite the last chapters of the book being slightly disappointing to me, this remains a good story, and a worthwhile read, and I will look for more books by this author.
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on May 7, 2011
Ok, so it wasn't terrible - the story line. It's an interesting concept but the story could have gone somewhere different- somewhere better. Leavitt's writing style is ok, but she really struggled with the ending I feel.
Overall, it's pretty darn schmaltzy though.

I get a little annoyed with books when they have a lot of discrepancies. I can overlook one or two, but this book was riddled with them. Was there no editings? Here's a few:

-Charlie doesn't cook. Then later on Charlie is baking loaves of bread???
-Charlies parents were cold and cruel, then he remembers them as loving towards each other like April's, and then it back to him remembering them as cold. Which is it??
-April was overly attentive, and then portrayed as not, and then overly attentive again.
-Sam and Lisa are 30 in the end of the book. But they met five years prior after each had lost a patient. They would have been too young at that time. They would still be in med school.
-Sam is 10 in the book when he should be 11.
-Once the relationship starts between Charlie and Isabelle Leavitt fails to even explore any guilt on Isabelle's part. This was a HUGE oversight as almost anyone in her shoes would have those feelings sleeping in Charlie's bed, eating dinner at their table, etc.
-Heck of a lot of rear view mirror scenes (atleast 4) and happenstance. I think they run into each other at the bookstore 3 times, the beach once, the playground, the park, etc.

Also, the characters were all too similiar. None had a voice of their own. Leavitt is weak at writing dialogue.

I think the characters actions are implausible, and for the weight of the story line some important emtional factors that would have affected the characters is not developed. Other things are left as loose ends.
Why did Leavitt even bring into the story Charlie's dad's infidelity.

There wasn't a ton of character growth which made it brutal. 30 year old Sam still sounds like 9 year old Sam. Isabelle still seems defensive and just wants everyone to side with her and see it her way. These things made her almost unlikeable as she's so co-dependent and insensitive. Charlie was really the only character I cared for at all.

I was suprised at all the technical errors since Leavitt is a book critic.Everyone in this book is unpredictable, and not in the best of ways. Lacks consistency and goes almost no where.
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on April 15, 2011
I've read three books now by Ms. Leavitt, all of them intimate glimpses into the hearts of characters that breathe on the page. And they've all been page-turners for me. The author has such a relentless gift for cutting to a character's soul - she digs in and doesn't let go - that I find myself on the edge of my favorite reading chair wondering what each one of them will do next. The characters drive the story, not the other way around, which is what I love about this book. The first chapter is a grabber, like everyone's saying, and I loved the whole set-up. But the rest of the book rises to the promise of those opening pages. I kept asking myself: What would I do in this situation?

If you want a story with a real heartbeat, an honest look at the twists and turns of real emotions and real life -- grief, death, the confusion of childhood, and the happy rebirth of joy and love in the midst of it all, this is a book you'll love as much as I did. A great book to curl up with when you need a little comfort and hope.
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on January 3, 2011
Reading this book, I was reminded once again of what really makes a brilliant writer; one who can transport the reader into the lives and worlds of their characters so thoroughly that you forget all about time and place and the fact that you have been reading for hours at a time.

From its first pages, this book grabs the reader and doesn't let go. Carefully and seamlessly interweaving the lives of its main characters until their worlds collide, Caroline does an incredible job of showing us all their points of view, giving us wonderfully complicated and flawed characters whose actions may not be what we deem ideal, but they are real and understandable. Caroline doesn't underestimate her readers with easy plot points, two dimensional characters and pat dialogue, instead she challenges us by giving us a rich and layered portrait of people and circumstances, that make it impossible to put this book down.

An incredibly moving book, whose beautifully drawn characters, and the event that brought them together, will stay with the reader long after the last page.
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