Back when I was on my way to the US for the Boothe family reunion in Smithfied, Virginia (the self-proclaimed “Ham Capital of the World“) I picked up a copy of Jodi Picoult’s Picture Perfect. I can’t say I am a longtime fan of Picoult’s writing. Some friends in Stockholm raved about her fairly often but it took a while before I finally picked up one of her books. The first one I read was Nineteen Minutes, which I loved. A few weeks after reading Nineteen Minutes, I tried The Tenth Circle–which was a real page-turner (another one added to my “I Love…” list). Later, I read The Pact and, again, I was hooked. So I thought the same would be true for Picture Perfect–that I would be hooked already from the first page and the story would suck me in and I wouldn’t want the book to end.
But, sadly, that wasn’t the case.
I can’t say that Picture Perfect is a bad book. It’s not. I just don’t think it’s one of Picoult’s better books. Here’s the basic plot: Will Flying Horse, an officer new to LAPD, finds a woman wandering aimlessly near a cemetery in downtown LA. The woman is suffering from amnesia and, since she has nowhere to go, Will lets her stay with him at his apartment. Several days later, the woman’s husband comes to claim her at the police station. It turns out that her name is Cassandra Barrett and she’s married to one of the biggest stars in Hollywood, Alex Rivers.
At first, everything seems perfect with Cassandra’s life, though she barely remembers the man she is married to. However, memories slowly come back to her and she realizes why she was in the cemetery in the first place. Alex Rivers may be the leading man women dream of, but behind closed doors he’s an abusive husband who makes Cassandra’s life a living hell. Meanwhile, Will can’t stop thinking about Cassandra and he’s also trying to come to terms with his own past. He’s half-Native American and his memories of growing up mixed on a reservation in South Dakota have led to him trying to deny his heritage. But he feels no more at home in LA than he did on the res. When Cassie comes to him again asking for help, he can’t say no but he also knows it means dealing with his past.
Sounds pretty interesting, right? So why did it take me so long to get into the book? Even halfway through, I didn’t feel any connection with the characters. Cassandra is a battered wife so we as readers should feel empathy for her but sometimes she came across as simply ridiculous. And Alex, the man she marries before she even really knows him, never came alive for me. I couldn’t figure out what she saw in him, even in the chapters depicting the beginning of their relationship (pre-abuse) when we keep being assured he was romantic and attentive and caring. Maybe it was because I kept picture Tom Cruise in my head and I have a strong aversion to Tom Cruise in general.
What I did like about the book was how Picoult interlaced it with Native American folklore. The themes from the tales were picked up in the main plot. This was probably what kept me from chucking the book and moving on to the other book I’d purchased at Heathrow (Alice and Oliver by Tess Callahan).
Maybe too I didn’t get into this book because it is apparently a reissue and not one of Picoult’s more recent titles. I’ve heard from my friends who are Picoult fans that her earlier books are not as tight plotwise in comparison to her newer titles.
Once I finished reading Picture Perfect, I left it on the Amtrak Northeast Regional bound for Philadelphia. So I hope the person who found i enjoys it more than I did.