Isabelle is leaving her husband. She’s found out that he’s been cheating on her and she can’t wait to get away. Three hours from home in Cape Cod, she sees a car stopped in the middle of the road, facing the wrong direction. It’s so foggy that she doesn’t see the car until it’s too late, and she’s struck it, killing the woman inside. Her young son survived, too far out from the wreck, but his and his father Charlie’s lives are irrevocably changed. Isabelle can’t help running into them when they both return to their lives in Cape Cod, and she finds herself drawn to this widower and his adorable, asthmatic son Sam, despite the role she’s played in their grief.
I am so glad my Skype book club chose this for our February read because I would never have read it otherwise – and I truly enjoyed it, finding that it surpassed my expectations by far. Before I even got into the story, I found that the writing instantly swept me away, evoking perfectly Isabelle’s feelings as she fled her husband and then encountered April’s car in the midst of the fog. I was drawn instantly in and looked forward to returning to it whenever I had to go do something else.
One of the most interesting parts of the novel was actually April’s backstory. Though she dies in the first few pages of the novel, she is one of the most compelling characters. Clearly mentally ill in some way, she is the classic overprotective mother in some respects but incredibly negligent in others. She needs someone else to need her and this seems to motivate almost all of her choices in life. Meanwhile, her husband Charlie has always been desperately in love with her. Discovering that she may have been leaving him – with their son in tow – is devastating for him, and he is obsessed with finding out why.
Sam’s relationship with Isabelle is another really well-done aspect of the novel. Having caught just a glimpse of her at the accident scene, Sam believes that Isabelle is an angel, and when he seeks something to hold onto in the absence of his mother, she turns into it. Isabelle herself is looking to refresh her life, away from her ex-husband and his girlfriend’s baby, but no longer has a place in the community where she’s ostracised as the woman who killed a young mother. Her desire to recover lead to some very difficult choices, but I felt she always handles them in an appropriate way.
The only unrealistic aspect of the novel, in my view, was the way Isabelle was treated after the accident. How could she be ostracised so completely for an accident which really wasn’t her fault? I don’t think any woman would experience this kind of backlash when she ran into another car, facing the wrong direction, lights off, in a thick fog. The rest of the novel drew me in so much that I managed to ignore this but it did strike the single odd note.
My book club really enjoyed this book and found tons to discuss in it, only some of which I have touched on here. This would be a great selection for other book clubs too – there is a lot to pull out of this one and talk about!
Pictures of You was a sparkling read, chock full of interesting, multi faceted characters, strong relationship development, and beautiful prose. The mystery within it. about just why April ran, made a strong book that much more appealing. Highly recommended.
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