Published by Ballantine Books
Publication date: October 14th 2014
Genres: Childhood, Fiction, Mystery
It’s no small feat, finishing a journey…But no one ever mentions that once you get there, you still have to turn around and head all the way home.
Jenna Metcalf is fourteen years old and has only one goal in life: find her mother. When she was four and living with her parents on an elephant sanctuary an employee was murdered and her mother was injured and later disappeared from the hospital. Her father had a complete mental breakdown and lives in an institution while Jenna’s grandmother raises her. In Leaving Time Jodi Picoult applies her powerful storytelling skills to the lives of Jenna, her mother Alice, and the two people Jenna gets to help her—a psychic named Serenity, whose career imploded, and Virgil, a former police detective who is now a private investigator.
I have not read a lot of Picoult but know that her novels often echo recent events about legal issues or complex human situations. Leaving Time does not fall neatly into either category but, on a deeper level, explores a number of disparate themes. There is Alice, an elephant researcher whose journals provide an insightful look at the psychological and emotional qualities of elephants, particularly how they deal with grief. These copious notes are all Jenna has left of her mother. Picoult blends this with Alice’s own life and the events that led to her injury and disappearance. The rest of the narrative is split between Serenity, Virgil, and Jenna and how they come together. For both Serenity and Virgil there is a redemptive quality to their efforts as both have failed in their professional endeavors. These are four very unique characters and yet, Picoult instills them with voices that ring true. This makes reading Leaving Time an imaginative exercise in that, like a great movie, you can hear and see the characters as they interact and the story unfolds.
The allure of Picoult is how thoroughly she leads the reader. There are great novels out there that require a lot of thought to puzzle them through. With Picoult all the work is done and there is nothing left for the reader but to sit back and trust that the loose ends, odd scenes, and unanswered questions will be taken care of. Absolutely, down to the last period. This doesn’t mean that Leaving Time is dumbed down. Not at all. It simply means that as you read you must abandon the urge to question or go back in your reading, because Picoult is a captain of such strength that she is piloting you exactly where you need to be. And if you can just relax and enjoy the brilliance with which she navigates a complicated story you will get the bang-up surprise of your life when she brings it all home.
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