“‘It’s not going to ever happen again,’ he said. He laid his head in my lap and of their own volition my hands began to stroke his hair, his ear, the line of his jaw that I knew so well. ‘I know’, I said. But even as the words came I saw behind my closed eyes the image of those midwestern storms that rip up the world as you know it, and leave, like a sacrifice, a rainbow to make you forget what has come before.”
Author: Jodi Picoult Published: 1995 Pages: 436
This novel begins with the protagonist Cassandra, or Cassie, waking up in a graveyard, covered in bruises and no idea how she got there. Unable to make sense of the situation, Cassie finds solace with Will Flying Horse, an LA cop who is trying to escape his past. Following her through the events which follow we discover that Cassie is married to Alex Rivers, the biggest movie star in Hollywood. But as she comes to terms with her life of luxury, it is all torn apart when it is revealed that Cassie’s husband has been abusing her. She now finds herself in a Catch 22: does she stay with the man who is hurting her or leave the man she loves and risk losing everything?
Throughout this book Picoult manages to once again make her readers question everything they thought they knew. She writes Cassie as a character who is constantly conflicted (a trait which made her relatable) but also as someone not completely helpless. Her situation may be dire but that doesn’t make Cassie weak, if anything Picoult moulds her into a character with extraordinary resilience. Not only this, but the way Picoult crafted Alex, not into a monster, but into a seemingly forgivable and devoted husband, made how the story unfolded even more chilling.
For both Cassie and Alex, their past played an important role in how they behaved as adults, but while Cassie could move on from hers, Alex seemed unconsciously intent on becoming his cruel father. Something that annoyed me a little in this novel was a character called Connor. He was a boy whom Cassie knew when she was a child, but while Connor was important, Picoult didn’t seem to focus on him much, something I found a bit frustrating as I was yearning to learn more. Cassie constantly harks back to Connor in her mind and the more abusive Alex becomes, the more Cassie craves the familiarity of her relationship with Connor, so it would have been nice to see some more of him.
At first, I wasn’t sure about Picoult’s choice to switch from third person into first person, but once I became comfortable with it I could understand why. It certainly helped me understand the characters and the decisions they made by getting into their heads. It also made the reality of the situation hit home a lot harder. Yes Cassie was being physically abused, but that didn’t stop her loving the man she married, or at least loving the idea of him.
Picoult’s carefully placed jaunts to information on anthropology, and Native American culture also added to the novel’s allure. Picture Perfect is mostly important for its highlighting of abuse in relationships but her attention to detail in the other elements of the story cannot go unnoticed.
Previously I have read Nineteen Minutes by Jodi Picoult and that book stayed with me a while after I finished reading it just because of how it made me question everything. The thing I love about her is that she is so brilliant at making the reader understand people. Before reading this novel you may think “why would anyone stay in an abusive relationship”, but Picoult allows you to see it from the victim’s perspective and understand the situation. Never does she justify the abuse or try to sugar-coat it, but what she does do is make the reader understand how quickly things can spiral out of control.
While this novel did not have the same Picoult-esque twist at the end that I enjoyed in Nineteen Mintues, I did enjoy the ending. It was satisfying and important, and that is why I think this book is such a success.