As I read this wonderfully colorful story, I couldn’t help thinking of the saying: “A picture is worth a thousand words.” We learn Ella’s story, as well as those of her family, friends, and the people she paints…as she paints them. In each sitting, Ella, the portrait artist, elicits the stories of her subjects. And as she gradually portrays them, we learn bits and pieces of her story as she interacts with them and reflects on her life.
At thirty-five, Ella Graham has a big hole in her heart…and in her life. Her father, about whom she has some happy memories, disappeared just before she turned five. Drawing him over and over as a child was her way of somehow capturing him.
Her mother’s secrecy and complete dismissal of his presence or importance in her life back then create an agony that cannot be fully healed.
So in painting the lives of others and seeing their loves, hearing about their losses, Ella feels a connection that, while it doesn’t replace what she’s lost, gives her something on which to focus.
Then one day, something unexpected happens, and Ella’s life changes course. Gradually she uncovers the secrets of her past…and at the same time, discovers something right in front of her that had eluded her. Unexpected love.
Visually vibrant settings, along with fully-drawn characters, brought The Very Picture of You: A Novel completely alive for me. I enjoyed this memorable story that in some ways fully realizes the idea that we all see something different when we look at the world, and that our individual perceptions can sometimes distort events. Secrets, betrayals, and even love can be fully seen when we acknowledge them. Four stars.