Greetings! I’m Gloria Harrison, a contributing author here on The Nervous Breakdown and the new TNB Book Club facilitator. I’ll be helping out by providing updates about the goings on with our Book Club selections and authors, posting reminders and updates on Facebook, and opening Book Club discussions here in The Feed. To that end:

This month’s TNB Book Club selection is Caroline Leavitt’s Pictures of You.

Caroline’s own website describes the book this way:

A mysterious car crash on a deserted, foggy road brings three people together in a collision of their own:
A photographer fleeing her philandering husband and consumed with guilt.
An asthmatic boy with a terrible secret.
A husband who realizes that he never really knew his wife.

You can read an excerpt of the book here

For those who’ve already begun or finished the book, please share your thoughts with us in the comment board below.

Finally, book club members:  Please join us for a live TNB Book Club discussion of Pictures of You on Sunday, January 30th at 9:30pm EST / 6:30pm Pacific.  All Book Clubbers will receive an email with log in instructions a few days before the live discussion.

Not a member of the TNB Book Club? Follow this link to sign up. For the unbelievable price of $9.99 a month, Book Club members will receive a new book each month, along with an exclusive monthly e-mail newsletter with info, updates, and instructions on how to attend the book club meetings online. Attending the meetings will be as simple as clicking a link and logging in to the meeting page at a predetermined date and time, with a username and password provided by TNB.  Fun!

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GLORIA HARRISON is a writer whose work has been featured on The Nervous Breakdown, Fictionaut, and This American Life. Gloria was the lead editor for The Portland Red Guide: Sites & Stories of Our Radical Past by Michael Munk, which was published through Ooligan Press in 2007. She was also a contributing editor to Pete Anthony's book, Immaculate, for which she received a high five and a ten dollar gift card to Stumptown Coffee. Gloria graduated from Portland State University with her B.A. in English in 2006 and now focuses on her own writing. She had a work of flash fiction published in The Bear Deluxe Magazine (No. 26). You can follow her on Twitter here.

Gloria lives in Portland, Oregon with her school-age twin boys. She is currently working on both a memoir and her first novel. You can contact Gloria via her Facebook page.

20 responses to “Pictures of You, by Caroline Leavitt – Open Discussion Thread”

  1. I LOVED this book! Serious author envy. 🙂

  2. Karen Monroy says:

    I loved Pictures of You. It’s woven with rich details-I kept thinking about how evocative and real it seemed reading it. I loved the path of the story, all the way to the organic ending you don’t really see coming. I recommend the book to everyone!

  3. […] The Nervous Breakdown thenervousbreakdown.com/gharrison/2011/01/picture…-you-by-caroline-leavitt-open-discussion-thread/ – view page – cached TNB Book club discussion thread of Caroline Leavitt’s book Pictures of You, the January Book Club selection., TNB Book club discussion thread of Caroline Leavitt’s book Pictures of You, the January Book Club selection. […]

  4. steph mclain says:

    I was immediately drawn to this book by the original, unique story..and once i started reading i couldn’t put it down. I love that the characters are real, and have real emotions and reactions, and that it didn’t have the expected happy ending where everything is all neat and tidy and everyone wins. Great ending-unexpected but yet perfect. it allowed for the reader to ponder what happens next without leaving them frustrated or angry at the author for not telling them enough.

    • Oh Steph, thank you! I always try to do what I call “never ending stories”–where the book ends but you keep thinking about the characters and you want to know what happens next. I have a sort of Rolling Stones approach–characters don’t usually get what they want, but sometimes, they get what they need.

  5. Paula says:

    WORST.BOOK.EVER. I feel this book insulted the intelligence of its readers (those out of the fourth grade, anyway). One more ridiculous selection like this and I’m canceling my subscription.

    • dwoz says:


      Now, Caroline, I think you can open that bottle of Champagne. You’ve arrived! Congratulations.

      I got my first “you really suck. No, really.” comment post on my little unread blog the other day. High point of my month. Seriously. Loved it.

    • Gloria says:


      I’m sorry to hear that you didn’t have a great experience with Pictures of You. How, specifically, did you find it insulting? Other commenters have mentioned that the characters felt “real” and that they enjoyed the unexpected ending. What do you think?


  6. jonathan evison says:

    . . . i’m not finished yet, but so far i love how invested caroline is in her characters . . .

  7. I read this book in galleys and found it completely psychologically gripping–and am happy to report that my mother just picked it up the other day, while at my house, to kill some time when babysitting . . . and she did not put it down until she had finished it the next day! (Well, she did take a few hours to sleep–she’s 78 and everything.) She said she didn’t get any work done all day because she was so enthralled with the book.

    I’ve written Caroline already to say how well drawn I especially found the portrayal of Sam to be. I don’t often read books that literally make me cry (in fact, often, the thought of that sounds kind of sentimental and gaggy to me.) But there were times when Sam made me cry, and afterwards I didn’t feel at all “manipulated” or yucky about it–I could feel how palpably Caroline cared about and understood Sam, his illness, and his loss(es), and that he was flesh and blood to her, not just a tool to wring emotion from readers.

    I’m glad to have this as a TNB Book Club pick and really look forward to the discussions!

  8. Clea Simon says:

    Well, this is going to be a lively discussion! I don’t want to say too much while other people are still reading. Very curious as to how people felt about the ending, which felt very real to me – but maybe not what folks owuld want…

  9. Oh Paula, I’m truly sorry you didn’t have a good experience with my novel, but you know, some books aren’t for some people, for a whole variety of reasons. There have been books everyone else has loved that I loathed, and books I loathed that the world seems to have annointed. I have a thick skin, and I’d also be curious to know why you hated it. I’m happy to discuss anything.

    Dwoz, you made me laugh, and Gina and Johnny, coming from writers like you, it just means everything, everything.

  10. Gloria says:

    Great discussion so far, everyone.

    Caroline, Jonathan Evison has offered some questions for this discussion thread. I’m sure we’ll cover much more at the live TNB Book Club discussion of Pictures of You on Sunday, January 30th at 9:30pm EST / 6:30pm Pacific. In the meantime, here on Jonathan’s questions:

    JE: Caroline, you’ve been at this novel-writing business for a long time, PoY being your ninth novel. Clearly, you inhabit your characters, walk in their shoes, suffer with them. Talk to us about the psychic and spiritual toll this takes on you?

    JE: PoY has such a perfect (to use a screenwriting term) “inciting event”. Was the rest of the novel born of this moment? Meaning, did you conceive of the accident before anything else?

    JE: Another writerly question: who is in charge, you or your characters? Did you impose these tragic circumstances on the character to discover how they would react, or did you have a pretty good idea of where their paths would lead them after tragedy?

    Book clubbers:

    What questions do you have for Caroline? Be sure to think of them as you read, as you will have an opportunity to ask her at our live discussion (if not now.)

    What are you thoughts about the plot, narrative, characters, their reactions, etc?

    Thanks, everyone!

  11. Great questions, Jonathan. I’m not always the most pleasant person to be around when I am writing (hey, that’s almost all the time), but I ache with my characters and dream about them. I swear I see them in the supermarket buying cottage cheese and unripe pears. But I also love them and feel deeply compassionate for them even as I am going through whatever it is they are going through with them. Sometimes I can’t eat. I used to bite my nails and finally stopped that atrocious habit a few years ago. Sometimes, too, when I am deepest in the novel, I forget the line between what’s real and what isn’t. I’ll be upset or worried, and sometimes it’s not about my own problems–it’s about my characters and how they are faring.

    Spiritually, what worries me sometimes is how in love I am with tragedy. My 14 year old is the same way. If someone dies in a book or film, he wants to read or see it! I wonder, could I write a comedy? Could I give people happy endings? Sometimes friends who don’t know me very well ask me, “How could such a happy, silly person, write such sad books?” I always think the answer is that I can be happy and excited about life because I get to put all the darkness on the page.

    Re the inciting incident. I did begin with that image of the crash. The novel was born of a phobia. My dirty little secret is I don’t drive, though I have my license. All I had to do to get it was drive around the block. I tried to take refresher classes and the instructor told me, “Caroline, some people aren’t meant to drive. You’re one of them.” I think about car crashes all the time when I’m in a car. Another screenwriting term is taking things to the negation of the negation, which is you make it horrible, and then you make it even more horrible. For me, that wasn’t just being in a crash. It was the question, well, what do you do if you’re in a car crash and THEN you kill someone? And what if it’s not your fault? You still have to grapple with all these issues of guilt and grief and responsibility.

    I think the answer to who’s in charge is both, but the real magic happens when the characters stretch their own legs and start to breathe on the page. I wish I could control that, but I can’t. It just happens after hours and hours of work. So much of writing is in the discoveries you make as you’re writing the character. The subconscious unlocks and things bubble to the surface. I knew I wanted a young boy Sam, but his being asthmatic not only surprised me, it made me want to go drill holes in my head without anesthesia. I didn’t want to do that, to write about asthma (I was severely asthmatic as a kid.) I kept deleting the files, and the asthma kept coming back, and finally, I said, okay, you win, let’s go with that and see what happens and it started to come alive for me. In early drafts, April, the woman who is killed, was much rougher and nastier, and then a scene popped up (I had no control over it), where she was acting very differently than usual, but it made me think she could be complicated in a different sort of way.

    I knew there was going to be a crash, and aI knew it was going to screw up everyone’s life, but I didn’t know how. As I wrote I had a vague idea of what might happen, but the characters really lead me to the actions.

    I will say that I was in charge for the ending, and the characters fought me about it (even though they knew on some level that this was the way things were heading.)

    Oh thanks for these super questions!

  12. julieako says:

    This was my favorite Book club book so far! I have since read “Girls in Trouble” and am now reading “Meeting Rozzy Halfway”. Looking forward to reading others as I find them.

  13. […] fabulous new book on The Nervous Breakdown website. Click here for an interview with Leavitt and here to read and contribute to the open discussion […]

  14. […] when it appeared in my mailbox. Sometime last year, I got involved with an online book club through The Nervous Breakdown. The Nervous Breakdown is a fascinating website that a whole bunch of different authors contribute […]

  15. […] when it appeared in my mailbox. Sometime last year, I got involved with an online book club through The Nervous Breakdown. The Nervous Breakdown is a fascinating website that a whole bunch of different authors contribute […]

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