Caroline Leavitt 2016



Reviews for Pictures of You


Leavitt plumbs the depths of grief and forgiveness in the lovely Pictures Of You."
Vanity Fair, Hot Type


"A beautiful book. Leavitt writes with a really light and delicate touch about the relationships between people. She's an undiscovered jewel."
Newsweek Magazine, Jodi Picoult Bookbag


"Suspenseful...gripping. Leavitt is superb at revealing the secrecy inside many marriages and the way children grieve; several moving scenes involve Sam, who has come to imagine Isabelle as a crash scene "angel" who will take him to his mother. Most impressive is how Leavitt deals head-on with well-meaning people who come to realize, too late, that even an imperfect life is irreplaceable."
Jane Ciabattari, O, the Oprah Magazine


"If you look for richly developed characters who move fluidly through a well-paced plot, then Caroline Leavitt's Pictures of You is an ideal read."
Pennie Clark Ianniciello, Costco, a Pennie's Bookclub Pick for January


"An emotionally wise novelist's latest novel tosses neighbors into kaleidescopic collision and then manages to make sense of their ensuring relationships and fates. Leavitt's ambitious narrative examines the various kinds of love--uxurious, romantic paternal--that can arise from or be transformed by unspeakable grief. These survivors barey gather the fragments of their lives which once seemed so safely wrapped up in habits and, it turns out, illusions. Their trials and triumphs remind us that however firmly we seek to root our perceptions in reality, some truths will always elude us in love."
Shirley Velasquez, Elle magazine, Hot Contents


"Complex, contradictory characters. Leavitt's literary touch is so light, her hand so translucent on the page, that only when the mystery is finally solved does the reader realize how tault she's kept the tension all along. Hauntingly compelling."
San Francisco Chronicle, Editor's Choice, Lit Pick


"Deeply moving. Leavitt's a gifted writer and creates characters who are flawed and selfish, yet endearing. A riveting story with lots of questions. But don’t expect loose ends to be tied up and everyone to live happily ever after. The characters are as unpredictable as people are in real life and that is one of the strengths of this book."
Donna Fleming, New Zealand Woman's Weekly


This thoughtful novel brings up a problem all of us have to deal with in the course of our lives, unless we're lucky enough to sneak through existence without encountering misfortune of any kind.... This is a novel that invites us to look at our own imperfections, not the dramatic crimes, but the niggling little sins of omission that so often render our lives tragically undernourished and small.”
Carolyn See, The Washington Post. Reprinted in The Miami Herald


"A white knuckle ride of love and longing. As in any Leavitt novel, mattrers are rarely as they appear to the casual bystander, and the author exhibits the talent for nuace in human relationships so mercifully devoid of romanticism they are reminiscent of early-career Alice Munro. Pictures of You is stepped in rich symbolism that creeps up on readers with subtlety. Leavitt brings a master mechanic's well-stocked toolbox to her trade. most satisfying of all, with Leavitt's careful steering, even the wildest coincidences in this brooding, beautiful novel sparkle with all the haphazard brilliance of broken glass upon the concrete."
Andrea Hoag, Minnesota Star Tribune


"From the opening chapter, Caroline Leavitt’s compelling new “Pictures of You’’ unfolds as part literary mystery, part domestic drama, and part psychological examination. Her writing is unfussy and direct, with vivid descriptions and passages of striking insight and wrenching, visceral power...Leavitt beautifully paces the book’s intertwining stories, meticulously unfurling bits of the back story, letting us put together the pieces just as the main characters do. But she wisely avoids the neat, pat wrap-up. “Pictures of You’’ is about processing both discovery and loss, discerning when to hold on and when to let go and understanding what in the middle of it all makes life meaningful. Provocative and rivetting.”
Karen Campbell, The Boston Globe


"Caroline Leavitt haunts with Pictures of You. Tight suspense.The mystery of April's flight propels the story to its untidy, inevitable conclusion: People don't always get what they want, or what they deserve. But they adapt. "
Cleveland Plain Dealer


"Beautifully and perspicaciously drawn. Leavitt's formidable skill as a writer is evident from beginning to end. It's like a somberly beautiful mystery that unfolds like a dark flower until we see the glowing heart. The characters are fully drawn and we immediately feel we know them, perhaps better than the people we spend our everyday lives with. Leavitt tells a haunted yet revelatory tale and resists the urge to end it neatly--instead it has the unmistakable agony and glory of real people living real lives."
Holly Cara Price, The Huffington Post


"Spring Books we're buzzing about. In this unsettling yet hopeful novel, Leavitt explores how well we really know the ones we love."
Rebecca Adler Warren, More Magazine


"I have been meaning to read this very talented author and her newest is truly fabulous. Full of lyrical, lilting prose...tender, tough, heartbreaking and redemptive."
Diane's Books


"The voices of Charlie, Isabelle and Sam intertwine in this heartwrenching tale of loss with a hopeful story of the healing powers of love with spectaular results. A gifted writer, Leavitt succeeds admirably."
Corpus Christi Caller-Times


"A transcendent philosophical journey. The characters delight because they are so precisely complicated — misguided, yet astute; fragile, yet enduring; self-involved and generous.”
The Providence Journal


"The raw emotions that the main characters endure as they wade through tragedy is riveting. Part mystery, part love story--this book is ideal reading."
First Picks: The 6 paperbacks we're reading now, Cassandra Zink, First for Women Magazine


"Love, family, and the moments that change lives forever — these are the potent ingredients that Caroline Leavitt stirs up again and again in her fiction.There’s a page-turning pull to Pictures of You that will no doubt please readers who have come to count on Leavitt."
Julia Hanna, The Boston Phoenix


"Caroline Leavitt has been a book club favorite for years and her latest novel will be no exception. Pictures of You is scheduled for publication in January of this year and readers will be intrigued by the premise. Two women have abandoned their marriages and meet with unfortunate circumstances on a foggy Cape Cod highway. Only one survives the tragic car wreck and it deters her from starting a new life even as she realizes her life will never be the same. As two adults begin to pick up the pieces of shattered lives and figure out where and how to begin living again, readers will ponder along with them about the nature of love, forgiveness and self-preservation. This domestic drama is compelling and moving and readers should not be concerned that they find themselves waffling between the characters. Leavitt wants the readers to think about this unimaginable situation and how a person recovers to live a full and satisfying life."
Booklist Online

"In her previous novels — two of which, Coming Back To Me and Girls In Trouble, have been reviewed here — Caroline Leavitt showed an exquisite talent for bringing her characters alive on the page. These novels were marked by Leavitt’s tough love for her characters, her ability to find and examine both the laughter and the tears that exist in ordinary people, and her willingness to take chances, to let the characters go their own way rather than follow the path of the predictable or even the desirable. In her latest novel, Pictures of You, Leavitt gives us one of her best stories yet, a book which reminds us that the best fictions not only entertain but also lead us to ponder the ideas of love, happiness, and fate.To say more will spoil the ending of this novel. It is sufficient to note that the final pages of Pictures of You may not satisfy all its readers — a circumstance that is, oddly enough, highly satisfying. Carolina Leavitt knows that life doesn’t come in a neatly wrapped package, and she is too fine and honest a storyteller to wrap up Pictures of You that way. By giving this story the long, hard thoughts that it deserves — Sam, Isabelle, and Charlie stay with us long after we have finished the last page — we will eventually come to agree with her. Pictures of You is a fine novel for book club discussions, for it creates a man, a woman, and a child who are as real and immediate to us as our neighbors — and ourselves, for that matter. More importantly, Pictures of You with its clear insights, its unlocking of the human heart, and its examination of death, grief, and love, offers readers both triage and a hope for recovery from their own disasters, should they be in need of such help in their own lives. Known for its list of excellent fiction, Algonquin Press had done itself proud in publishing Pictures of You."
Jeff Minick, Smoky Mountain News


"In her new novel, author Caroline Leavitt looks at families. What, exactly, makes a family? Is a truly happy family, well, possible? Can we ever really know the people we love? And what happens when a family is abruptly shattered by sudden death? Pictures of You tells the story of two women, Isabelle and April, both of whom are fleeing their normal lives. Their cars collide in a horrible crash one foggy evening on Cape Cod. One of the women dies; her young son and the other driver survive. The dead woman’s son, Sam—deeply in denial about his mother’s passing—will not answer questions about the crash. So his father, Charlie, is left asking why his wife’s car was parked the wrong way in the middle of the street with no headlights in a thick, dark, fog. Also, why was Same found in the woods—not inside the car—after the accident? And the nagging question that haunts him the most: why did she have a packed suitcase in her backseat? He’d thought they were reasonably happy. Leavitt is at her best when describing the slow spiral of mourning and the lasting effects of grief. Her carefully rendered descriptions of her characters’ post-crash feelings, actions, and motivations seem spot-on. Despite the depressing subject matter, Pictures of You is a thoughtful read that just might encourage you to start saying all those things you keep meaning to tell your loved ones.”
Bust Magazine


"The premise teems with possibilities that Caroline Leavitt explores with deftness and consummate sensitivity in this, her ninth novel. PICTURES OF YOU succeeds largely because of Leavitt’s ability to inhabit the being of Sam Nash. There's utter realism in her portrayal of the child: his frailty and isolation, his longing for his mother and his belief in Isabelle’s angelic powers. From acting out with the class bad boy to his struggles with asthma (portrayed with graphic realism), Leavitt perfectly channels both Sam’s sorrow and how ill-equipped he, like any child, is to shape a response to it. Leavitt also explores the adult survivors’ grief with subtlety, understanding that they can move on without truly recovering, not least because at some level they choose not to. “You never got over what you lost,” Charlie Nash thinks. “You always carried it with you, stitched to you like Peter Pan’s shadow. And you never wanted to get over it, because who wanted to forget a time that had been so important? No, the truth was, you wanted to remember it always.” Isabelle’s friends urge her to move on, “as if she were a stalled car that only needed a little push." There are many strands to this mature story, and Leavitt knits them together with loving attention and care: the emotional forces that attract us to each other and the inexplicably fray; the role of sheer chance in our existence; the ways in which lives are reclaimed, though damaged, after a devastating loss. A lesser writer might yield to the temptation to offer a collection of soothing answers to these profound mysteries. It’s a tribute to Leavitt’s skill that she has written a novel that doesn’t hesitate to look into the darkness and somehow find salvation and grace there."
Harvey Freedenberg, Bookreporter


"With a tragic story and a cast of highly relatable, flawed characters, Pictures of You is a kind of female version of another novel that revolves around a car accident, John Burnham Schwartz’s haunting Reservation Road.”
Venus Zine


"A touching story of loss and discovery. Leavitt explores the depths of grief and the sticky spots sorrow pushes people into, and ...her near bottomless reserve of compassion for her imperfect characters will endear them to readers."
Publisher's Weekly


"In Leavitt’s (Girls in Trouble, 2005) compelling new novel, a car crash provides the catalyst for an examination of how well we know the people we love. April and Isabelle, both fleeing their marriages, collide on a foggy, deserted stretch of road. Only Isabelle survives, and though blameless, she is haunted by guilt. In search of healing, she finds herself drawn to Charlie and Sam, April’s grief-stricken husband and son. Complicated relationships develop, and Leavitt thoughtfully handles friendship and romance in scenes of emotional resonance. She understands the ache of loss, the elusiveness of forgiveness, and the triteness of words like “closure.” An expert storyteller, Leavitt alternates perspective among her three leading characters, providing insight into the thoughts, secrets, and dreams that they withhold from each other. Whether these individuals will arrive at happiness separately or together is the question that drives the narrative, and the reader, forward as Leavitt teases suspense out of the greatest mystery of all—the workings of the human heart."
Booklist, Patty Wetli


"Tragedy leads to complicated love as a widower and the woman who accidentally killed his wife are united by a grieving child looking for an angel. Compassion and a delicate narrative voice lift Leavitt's.. (Girls in Trouble, 2003, etc.) heartstring-tugger, set in Cape Cod, that’s shaped by loss and yearning. Photographer Isabelle Stein, fleeing from her unfaithful husband in foggy weather, suddenly encounters a car containing a woman and a child, the car facing the wrong way in the middle of the road. The unavoidable collision leaves April Nash dead; her nine-year-old asthmatic son Sam only slightly hurt but silent on what he witnessed; and Sam’s father Charlie heartbroken and bewildered. Why was April three hours away from home and traveling with a suitcase? The aftermath of the crash is a struggle for all parties, especially Sam, who sees Isabelle as an angel connected to his mother. The two become friends through photography, and Charlie’s initial anger subsides as he acknowledges childless Isabelle’s genuine affection for the boy. But when Sam learns that the adults have become lovers, the emotional impact makes him ill. Separation follows, then an explanation which liberates Charlie to go after Isabelle. Crossed wires are eventually straightened out, but not predictably. Heartfelt (everyone cries), deft and highly readable fiction."
Kirkus Reviews


"Leavitt tells a compelling story of how the two survivors' lives entwine. Leavitt's characters and their problems feel very real, and readers will want to know more about them. An entertaining read and a wonderful story."
Library Journal


"I have long admired Caroline Leavitt's probing insight into people, her wit and compassion, her ability to find humor in dark situations, and, conversely, her tenderness toward characters other writers might merely satirize. All these qualities are on display in Pictures of You, which explores the many mysteries of grief--the things we can heal, and the things we can't."
Dan Chaon, author of Await Your Reply


"Pictures of You is the sensitive, nuanced story of two women, both running away, whose fates intertwine forever. Leavitt writes straight into the heart of each scene to find its rich, emotional undercurrents."
Kate Christensen, author of Trouble, A Novel


"Caroline Leavitt's new novel is an achingly wise tale about how each of us tries to shape our deepest sense of self, challenged not only by other souls in a similar pursuit but by the very forces of life itself, be they happenstance or destiny. In Pictures of You, Caroline Leavitt is a splendid writer at the peak of her powers."
Robert Olen Butler, Pulitzer Prize winning author of A Good Scent From a Strange Mountain, and Hell


"I was mesmerized from the opening pages. Caroline Leavitt is a masterful storyteller. Here, she has created an elegantly structured, emotionally resonant novel that begins with tragedy, but quickly moves beyond it to the biggest questions in life: what do we do with what has been handed to us? How do we find redemption within loss? How do we open our hearts, knowing all that we know? This is a beautiful book."
Dani Shapiro, author of Black and White, Family History and Devotion


"Pictures of You is riveting and poignant and deeply moving. Caroline Leavitt has given us a beautiful and hypnotic exploration of the ways we heal -- and, yes, the ways we don't."
Chris Bohjalian, author of Secrets of Eden


"The extraordinary intersection of four lives sets the scene for this complex and deeply moving novel about love, loss, and letting go. In Pictures of You, Caroline Leavitt presents a deeply felt story you'll be thinking about long after you've turned the last page."
Michelle Richmond, author of The Year of Fog and No One You Know


"A complicated and complex near-mystery of a novel. I found it impossible to put this book down. Leavitt is a writer who can be trusted absolutely, and she has created a wonderful book that's as complicated, crushing, and joyous as life itself."
Robb Forman Dew, author of The Truth of the Matter, and Dale Loves Sophie to Death, National Book Award Winner

"Heartbreaking, suspenseful, and moving, Pictures of You contains all the elements I long for in a great story. This irresistible novel of families betrayed and dreams come true is wise in the ways of the human heart, a manifestation of hope, tragedy, and beauty."
Diana Abu-Jaber, author of Origin and The Language of Baklava


"Pictures of You is an enthralling amalgamation of a literary mystery and the story of one woman's search for self-fulfillment. A stunning coincidence results in a cruel fate, but the redemptive power of love offers the possibility of a second chance. Caroline Leavitt has written a page-turning novel; her characters spring from the heart. "
Binnie Kirshenbaum, author of The Scenic Route 


"Pictures of You is a magically written, heartbreakingly honest snapshot of the people we leave behind and those we can't let go; a portrait of the full spectrum of the human heart. Caroline Leavitt is one of those fabulous, incisive writers you read and then ask yourself, Where has she been all my life?"
Jodi Picoult, author of Handle With Care

"In Caroline Leavitt's Pictures of You, we enter a world so authentic and nuanced in intimate moments, that we don't even notice there is a writer's hand directing it. We hear only Leavitt's characters, their bruised and poignant struggles and voices, their traps when fate and accident force them into choices so compelling, their lives will make even the hardest of readers' hearts open up. Leavitt navigates the deepest chasms of tragedy and shows us, in all her books, the journey of heroes." 
Leora Skolkin-Smith, author of Edges and The Fragile Mistress