Exploring some of life’s greatest fears
By Hope Katz Gibbs
“It was always a shameful thing for me, something that made me feel weird and different, so I
FROM A FATAL car crash and the death of a parent
to comforting a chronically sick child and coping
with infidelity, life’s greatest challenges play out in
the pages of Pictures of You by Caroline Leavitt.
Here’s the scenario: Two slightly desperate
women get into their cars late on a September after-
noon in an attempt to run away from their mar-
riages. On a windy, foggy highway they collide. The
survivor is left to pick up the pieces,
Then an odd thing happened. As Leavitt wrote
about Sam, her symptoms began to disappear.
“I’m always obsessed with what
pulls people together and what tugs
them apart, particularly families,”
Leavitt tells The Connection from her
home in New Jersey. “I love to try to
figure out how people are at their best,
or their worst, in difficult situations.
“I don’t think it was the asthma
that was being healed as much as my
personal shame of being a sick child,”
she insists, noting that the book also
enabled her to tackle her phobia of
driving. “Suddenly I was talking to
everyone about the things I had buried for decades, and I honestly felt
In Pictures of You, my goal was to
explore the idea of how well we really know those
we love, and whether or not we can open our hearts
to forgive the unforgivable. Can life be derailed
without being ruined?”
Of course, Leavitt has long
known that writing is a cathartic
experience. A writer since she was a
child, she felt a special passion for
short stories. But soon after winning
first prize in Redbook magazine’s
Young Writers Contest for “Meeting Rozzy Halfway,”
when she was 26, several New York agents called
asking if they could sell it as a book.
This novel, which is Leavitt’s ninth in the last
two decades, is the first with an air of mystery to it.
She also tackles one of her own personal sorrows.
Like Sam, the boy in the story, Leavitt suffered from
life-threatening asthma as a child.
“When one of the agents successfully sold it, she
called to tell me the good news—and I nearly threw
up,” jokes Leavitt, who says that turning the short
story into a novel was the most painful thing she has
done in her writing life. But by the end of the two-year process, she found a new true love.
Signed book giveaway
“Writing a short story is like going on a great
date, and writing a novel is like embarking on a
marriage,” she believes. “You really get to know your
characters, and you get extremely involved in their
stories. I could never go back to the dating phase of
Leavitt says that writing is like a drug to her—
one that keeps her sane.
“In my books, I delve into difficult situations
and work them out,” she explains. “It’s where I put
all the things I’m afraid of and obsess about. This
makes me a much happier person in regular life.”
Fortunately, her husband can relate. He’s music
journalist Jeff Tamarkin.
NO PURCHASE OR PAYMENT OF ANY KIND IS NECESSARY TO ENTER OR WIN THIS SWEEPSTAKES.
“Our son, Max, is 14 and never reads any of
our articles or books,” Leavitt admits. “Why
would he? Both of his parents are writers,
and it’s kind of boring to him. But at
some point he or one of his girlfriends will want to. Now that could
be the topic for another novel.” C
COSTCO HAS 50 COPIES of Caroline
Leavitt’s Pictures of You with a signed book
plate to give away. For a chance to win, send
an e-mail with your name and mailing
“Caroline Leavitt” in the subject line. Or
print your name, address and daytime phone
number on a postcard or letter and send it
to: Caroline Leavitt, The Costco Connection,
P.O. Box 34088, Seattle, WA 98124-1088.
I’VE BEEN KNOWN to
occasionally fall for a
science-fiction book, but
overall I prefer what I read
to be a reflection of the
world as we know it, rather
than a vision of a world yet
to come. If you, too, look for
richly developed characters
who move fluidly through a
well-paced plot, then
Caroline Leavitt’s Pictures
of You is an ideal read.
The story begins with
two women running away
from home. When their cars
collide on a foggy highway,
one is killed. The survivor,
trying to heal herself, sets
out to help the husband and
child left behind by the
deceased. Once their lives
intersect, the unlikely trio
fumble through questions of
forgiveness, love, truth and
what really matters.
You may not love all of
the characters who inhabit
these pages, but you won’t
be let down if you decide to
follow them on their journeys.
For more book picks,
see page 87.
Purchase will not improve odds of winning. S weepstakes is sponsored
by Algonquin Books, P.O. Box 2225, Chapel Hill, NC, 27515. Open to legal
residents of the U.S. (except Puerto Rico) who are age 18 or older at
the time of entry. One entry per household. Entries must be received by
February 1, 2011. Winners will be randomly selected and noti;ed by mail
on or before March 1, 2011. The value of the prize is $13.95. Void where
prohibited. Winners are responsible for all applicable federal, state and local
taxes. Odds of winning depend on the number of eligible entries received.
Employees of Costco or Algonquin Books and their families are not eligible.
Hope Katz Gibbs is a freelance writer
who—like Caroline Leavitt—uses the
magic of writing to vanquish her demons.
Pennie Clark Ianniciello
Costco Book Buyer