How well do you know your spouse?
Intrigued? I know I was.
Such is the opening to "Pictures of You" by Caroline Leavitt. And before anyone dismiss this as just "chick lit," Leavitt digs deep.
This is not simply the tale of unhappily married women in search of greener pastures. (Not that there's anything wrong with reading that tale.)
This book leaves you thinking about how well you really know your spouse, about what we do in the name of love and about all those roads not taken.
Young Sam loved his mom. She took care of him, and the two enjoyed lots of adventures. The two would invent new identities for themselves and then set off "in character." Fun, no doubt for a young boy, but what does that say about his mom's state of mind. Was her love stifling? Were their adventures really healthy? Leavitt goes below the surface.
And she does so in language the both evokes and provokes.
"Charlie had been driving two hours when he began to feel like a shadow behind the wheel. His stomach was hot and tenses and his hands were clammy. There were a thousand things he could be doing today other than this fool's mission - working, doing laundry, cleaning. Everything inside him told him to turn back and head home, but he kept going,as if the car were propelling him forward, as if he had no control. When he got to the turnoff road, he was sweating, and when he made the turn, he felt as if someone had stapled his heart. He pulled over to the shoulder and parked, waiting a minute for his pulse to slow down. He took deep, long gulps of air.
He got out of the car. It was just an ordinary road, black top, yellow lines slashing the center. It had been almost four months now. The white chalk lines were long gone, the stars of blood. The road was clear and empty. You wouldn't know anything terrible had happened here. You wouldn't know that this was where his wife had died."
Aren't you standing there with him? Heart stapled, stars of blood, shadow behind the wheel. Beautifully crafted images.
Just published this month, the book has been getting lots of buzz and was picked as the January read by Costco, BJ's Wholsesale Club and The Nervous Breakdown Book Club. (who knew!)
She's written eight other novels, and I'm adding them to my list. Has anyone read any of her previous works to recommend? I'd be interested to hear from anyone else who's read this novel, too, about what they thought of the choices the various characters make ...