Author: Jodi Picoult
Book Title: Leaving Time
Genre: Adult Fiction
Type: Stand Alone
Format: Hardcover, 416 Pages
Publishing Date: October 14, 2014
Summary: For more than a decade, Jenna Metcalf has never stopped thinking about her mother, Alice, who mysteriously disappeared in the wake of a tragic accident. Refusing to believe that she would be abandoned as a young child, Jenna searches for her mother regularly online and pores over the pages of Alice’s old journals. A scientist who studied grief among elephants, Alice wrote mostly of her research among the animals she loved, yet Jenna hopes the entries will provide a clue to her mother’s whereabouts.
Desperate to find the truth, Jenna enlists two unlikely allies in her quest. The first is Serenity Jones, a psychic who rose to fame finding missing persons—only to later doubt her gifts. The second is Virgil Stanhope, a jaded private detective who originally investigated Alice’s case along with the strange, possibly linked death of one of her colleagues. As the three work together to uncover what happened to Alice, they realize that in asking hard questions, they’ll have to face even harder answers.
As Jenna’s memories dovetail with the events in her mother’s journals, the story races to a mesmerizing finish. [summary from Goodreads]
My Thoughts: Jodi Picoult has been one of my favorite writers for years. Ever since I read My Sister’s Keeper I have been a loyal fan, making my way through her ginormous pile of books little by little. This newest novel is one of my favorites of Picoult’s so far because not only does it have her classic controversy and issues of the human condition, it also has a ton of information about elephants. These glorious creatures have always been of interest to me. I will never forget a time during my childhood when my mom took me and my grandparents to the local circus. After the show they had a sort of “meet and greet” with the elephants and my grandma kept telling them how ugly they were and one of the elephants smacked her with its trunk. This memory has stuck with me over the course of my life because as a child I found this really funny and as I grew up I began to realize just how intelligent elephants really are. This creature may not have known what my grandma was saying but somehow she knew that it wasn’t nice and that was a sort of proof that perhaps elephants are capable of emotional thinking. That perhaps they aren’t so different from humans after all, and that is part of what made this book so interesting. Leaving Time touches on such subjects, especially that of how elephants grieve after their family members die, and the information is completely fascinating. Every bit of research that Picoult has done for this novel, which you can tell is extensive, helped me to feel connected to not only the human characters but also to the elephants described and it taught me a lot of things that I didn’t know about them.
Beyond the world of elephants, Picoult weaves this mysterious tale in her signature split point of view chapters with four main characters. After being gone for almost a decade, there are still no answers as to what happened to Alice Metcalf. All that is left behind for her daughter is a bunch of old journals that give some clues about who this woman was. Jenna, her daughter, has not given up hope of finding her mother and since no one knows anything about where she could be or what truly happened the night she went missing, including the only two people who could possibly give her answers, she goes off on her own to find out. Along the way she seeks out the help of a psychic named Serenity and a retired police officer turned P.I. named Virgil, who originally worked the case the night her mother went missing all those years ago. Things start off bumpy for them all as each one is bitter due to their own personal dramas but as the story unfolds, it becomes clear that they were meant to find one another. This journey is no longer just Jenna’s, it belongs to them all and together they discover truths in the mystery surrounding Alice’s disappearance that are definitely unexpected.
Per usual, Picoult gives us a story that pulls at our heartstrings, makes us invest in the lives of each character, whether we like them or not, and has us constantly questioning everything we think we know. I think fans of her writing style will enjoy this novel.
Quotable Moments: “Grandmothers in Botswana tell their children that if you want to go quickly, go alone. If you want to go far, you must go together.”
“You have to understand – there is a romance to Africa. You can see a sunset and believe you have witnessed the hand of God. You watch the slow lope of a lioness and forget to breathe. You marvel at the tripod of a giraffe bent to water. In Africa, there are iridescent blues on the wings of birds that you do not see anywhere else in nature. In Africa, in the midday heat, you can see blisters in the atmosphere. When you are in Africa, you feel primordial, rocked in the cradle of the world.”
“Could it be as simple as that? Could love be not grand gestures or empty vows, not promises meant to be broken, but instead a paper trail of forgiveness? A line of crumbs made of memories, to lead you back to the person who was waiting?”