PICTURE THIS: A NOVEL (P.S.) by Jacqueline Sheehan
William Morrow Paperbacks, May 22, 2012 ISBN 978-0-06-200812-1 (Trade Paperback)
Once you have had the pleasure of reading a Jacqueline Sheehan novel, you will be hooked. Her writing style is mellifluous and her characters are unforgettable. Sheehan manages to create stories which are both appealing and authentic. She conveys the joys of life, love, and nature—and captures this triumvirate in her lead female characters' relationships with their dogs—but she also mines the wells of human suffering and loss. Her second novel LOST & FOUND introduces us to Rocky Pelligrino, who, at age 39, becomes a widow after her husband Bob’s sudden death. Rocky leaves her home in Massachusetts and takes a leave of absence from her job as a college campus psychologist in order to escape her all-encompassing grief. She flees to Peak Island Maine, and takes the job of Animal Control Warden. Gradually, she discovers that you may run away from your life, but you cannot escape Life. She saves a black Lab named Cooper after discovering him with an arrow embedded in his shoulder. But, as anyone who loves dogs knows, Cooper really saves Rocky. Sheehan also creates a cast of supporting characters who are every bit as compelling, fascinating and flawed as Rocky. PICTURE THIS is the sequel to LOST & FOUND, and it is great to be reunited with Rocky and her friends—especially Cooper!
Rocky arrived on Peak Island in October. Now it is summer, and she must decide whether she is going to return to her job in the Berkshires. Rocky feels conflicted, since she has come to consider Peak Island as home, and has built strong relationships with friends Tess, Isaiah, and teenaged Melissa. Then there is the possibility of new love with Hill, her archery instructor who lives on the mainland. Before Rocky has a chance to sort through her feelings, she receives an astonishing phone call from a young woman named Natalie. Natalie, age 18, has just been emancipated from the foster care system and claims to be Bob’s biological daughter. Rocky is stunned by this call, and, as she is wont to do, impulsively invites Natalie to come to the island while they sort out the truth of her parentage. Rocky tends to lead with her heart even though she is a sensible and intelligent woman. It’s only been a year since Bob’s death, and this news causes her to lose some of the ground she has gained. Rocky behaves impulsively, and her actions may cost her and her friends very dearly.
I do not want to give away any of the plot and spoil an iota of Sheehan’s magnificent ability as a story teller. The chapters are written from alternate characters’ points of view—including Cooper’s—and the prose is rich and rewarding. Sheehan utilizes her background in psychology and captures people being very real. Her characters deal with the damages life can inflict in ways which are, by turns, horrifying or astonishingly heroic. Her story line is riveting, and I very much hope that there is a third Rocky Pelligrino novel in the works. Even if you did not take a vacation this summer, when you read PICTURE THIS you will have traveled well.