Caroline Leavitt tells so much vivid and heartfelt emotional truth through most of Pictures of You that you don’t anticipate the surprising denouement that’s coming. In fact, the concluding episode of Pictures of You happens within so few pages that I felt an abruptness, like the author was rushing through the remaining unresolved issues posed in her narrative. In spite of this tacked-on quality to the ending, what goes before certainly deserves recognition and appreciation: the emotional tone and content is spot-on for the arresting events of the story, and the author also manages great detail and accuracy in capturing a nine year-old boy’s struggle with loss. It shows a highly assured feel for her content.
Sam, just having started the fourth grade, witnesses a wrenching and horrific car accident, and later focuses his adulation on the woman responsible. As contrived or unlikely as that sounds, Ms. Leavitt handles it all so gradually and believably, we accept it, even embrace it. These characters find warm homes in our hearts, all to the author’s great credit. I don’t find fault with any of that, but I felt cheated, left in the dark about some of the guiding motivation for some of the most important actions in the story.
Get ready to have your heartstrings tugged when you pick this up. Ms. Leavitt shows excellent skills in the language and the workings of the human heart. But don’t expect your expectations for these characters to be met, either, because as the main female character actually says to the man who loves her, this isn’t a movie. It is, however, a book with high emotional content handled excellently, with some plot machinations that left me nonplussed.