In Picturing Will, the author presents the lives of three family members—mother, father, and son—in the late twentieth century. The first major section of the novel, “Mother,” introduces Jody, who has managed to bring her life back to normal after her husband, Wayne, walked out and left her with their infant son, Will. Jody lives in Charlottesville, Virginia, and supports herself as a photographer specializing in weddings. She is an attractive and energetic woman for whose work the demand is increasing, but she is also an artist with an eye for the out-of-the-ordinary. She is on the verge of success, an obvious candidate for the attention of an art capital such as New York. Jody’s devotion to Will is genuine. As she herself admits, he has been her salvation during the difficult days after Wayne’s departure.
Enjoying the success of her photography business, Jody considers the proposal of Mel, her lover, to marry him and move to New York City. She hesitates to jeopardize the security of her present life and her independence as a single woman, but Mel is a good man who has developed an exceptionally close relationship with Will, and a move to New York would rescue her from routine photographic work. In many ways, Mel is even more understanding of Will than is Jody, while his sympathy for her work keeps prodding her to the challenge of New York. Jody’s friend Mary Vickers, in a bad marriage herself, admires Mel and urges Jody to accept his offer. While Jody and Mary share the experiences of young motherhood, Mary poses for a photograph destined to show Jody’s genius beyond doubt, and their sons Will and Wagoner become best friends.
With the intention of persuading Jody to move to New York, Mel arranges to show her work to art-gallery proprietor D. B. Haverford, who immediately sees the appeal of her photographs and agrees to a public show in his gallery. When they meet, he is as fascinated by her...
(The entire section is 793 words.)