Elephants in the mist: Leaving Time (review)

Leaving Time
Jodi Picoult
Ballantine Books

From the first page of Jodi Piccoult’s new novel, we’re drawn into the story of Jenna Metcalf and her mother, Alice, separated in a terrible accident years before. Each narrates her journey as she searches and longs for the One Missing and the love they have for each other is palpable. Alice’s life’s work is researching the emotional lives of elephants, both in Africa and at a sanctuary in New England run by her husband. Jenna, following in her mother’s footsteps, knew elephants before she Leaving Timeknew playmates.

Jenna enlists the help of two unlikely characters in her search for Alice. Serenity Jones is a washed up psychic. Once a psychic to the stars, her fall from fame was fast and furious after she misread the fate of a missing boy on national TV. Reluctant at first to take on Jenna as a client, she can’t shake off the feeling that this is a case she must pursue. Virgil Stanhope was one of the detectives who first investigated the accident that separated Jenna and Alice. Jenna, winsome and all but orphaned, wins over this done-for detective just as she did Serenity. Together, they’re a rag tag bunch, each one trying to reclaim better days.

I could almost hear the voice of Wild America’s Marlin Perkins whenever Alice shares her elephant research. These are amazing creatures and Piccoult is clearly in love with them. I must admit I expected (and, being a believer, hoped) Serenity’s psychic gift would play a more important role—but, in true Piccoult fashion, we get a twist at the end that is so unexpected, I’m still thinking about it. Powerful stuff.

Before this, I had only read two of Jodi Piccoult’s twenty-three novels, but I’ve often seen her titles in the hands of my students. (In fact, I’ve promised a couple girls that I’d put House Rules on my reading list—and I did, of course!) Piccoult is chick lit with a message. (Piccoult, though, has some interesting things to say about her genre—or, should I say, the genre with which she’s been labeled. There’s enough fodder in that interview for another post, but you can read it here.)

If you want to explore the boundaries between this world and the next, or travel the length and breadth of timeless love, you must read Leaving Time.

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