Picture Perfect, by Jodi Picoult, is this week’s focus in the Friday Review.
The Friday Review isn’t every Friday: who can read 52 books in one year apart from Blu Chicken Ninja? When I do finish a book, the review will now be published on Fridays. Partly as a routine for myself, partly so people know when to expect my book-related posts.
To the outside world, they seem to have it all. Cassie Barrett, a renowned anthropologist, and Alex Rivers, one of Hollywood’s hottest actors, met on the set of a motion picture in Africa. They shared childhood tales, toasted the future, and declared their love in a fairy-tale wedding. But when they return to California, something alters the picture of their perfect marriage. A frightening pattern is taking shape—a cycle of hurt, denial, and promises, thinly veiled by glamour. Torn between fear and something that resembles love, Cassie wrestles with questions she never dreamed she would face: How can she leave? Then again, how can she stay?
Picture Perfect was written back in 1996, when I was only 2 years old, so yes I’m a little late to the party because I wan’t reading Picoult back then.
My grandma works in a charity shop one day a week, and picks up books for me every now and then. This was one of her finds.
A woman is discovered, passed out in a graveyard. We don’t know who she is or how she came to be there, and neither does she. A head injury means she has lost all her recent memories, and is escorted to a police station by Will Flying Horse.
Will is a new recruit at the LAPD and is off shift when he finds “Jane”. Eventually “Jane”, who we discover is called Cassie, is reunited with her husband, the A-list actor, Alex Rivers.
She could never have imagined this life for herself. They own mansions in Bel Air and LA and a ranch in Colorado. They have servants, and cooks, and butlers. Cassie tries to fit back into this life of fame and fortune. She thinks she has married her dream man, but the cracks soon start to show as she regains her memory.
The novel jumps back to 3 years before. Cassie remembers and narrates 3 years of her marriage to Alex Rivers: when they met, where they met, and the story of their marriage. It isn’t a happy one, though the media believes it to be a true Cinderella story.
We also learn about Cassie’s past: her abusive father, her alcoholic mother, and the death of her best friend, Connor. All of these events affected her life and the choices she made, but how did she end up in that church graveyard?
Picoult takes Picture Perfect from America, to Tanzania, to a Native American tribe camp. Cassie is torn between the corrupt love for Alex Rivers, and her new-found love for her rescuer, Will Flying Horse.
Picoult is so clever in the way she manipulates her readers. She makes us feel hatred towards Alex Rivers, but then remorse and pity. She makes us glad when Cassie leaves him, but then glad when she returns. Picoult plays with us, and gives us what we think we want, when it turns out we didn’t want that at all.
I did enjoy Picture Perfect, but was it typical chick-lit? Yes, but then I knew that when I picked it up. The book made me want to shout at some of the characters for their decisions, but in the end, things all work out okay.
Without spoiling the plot, I did enjoy the ending. Picoult could have drawn it out longer, yet I’m glad that she didn’t.
And then there’s the plot, and the subplot, and the pre-subplot. Without being confusing, Picoult gets the perfect balance between all the elements of Cassie’s story. She gives us the present, when Cassie wakes up in the graveyard. Then she gives us flashbacks to Cassie’s horrific childhood. And then she gives us the flashbacks of Alex’s and Cassie’s history as a couple. All of these aspects are wonderfully woven together to create a full and flowing, yet heartbreaking tale.
You can buy a copy from Penguin Random House.