You couldn’t call me a Jodi Picoult fan; this is only the second book of hers I have read – but it will not be the last!
The first was The Plain Truth, an interesting courtroom drama. Like many people, I cried my way through the movie of My Sister’s Keeper, but did not run out and buy her other books. Consequently, I came to Leaving Time with a very open mind.
This novel is written in four different voices: Jenna, a 13-year-old searching for her mother; Alice, an elephant behaviour researcher and the second voice. The third and fourth voices belong to Serenity, a psychic and Virgil, a former police detective, now a private investigator.
Using more than one storyteller is a trend in novels that, although not a new device, is currently popular. Jodi Picoult uses this device very well and her voices are distinct. I enjoyed each story and the different ways they are told separate but cohesive.
The plot starts out simply enough, seemingly a search for a missing person. Jenna Metcalfe age 13, bordering on 30, wants to know why her mother disappeared. She has lived with her grandmother since she was three. Under normal circumstances, she could ask her father, but Matthew is in a mental institution suffering from severe mental breakdown.
Is Alice alive or is she dead? Alice studies elephants and whilst in Africa is intrigued by their behaviour in the face of separation and death, in particular “Does an elephant feel grief?” Studies by real elephant researchers are used to great advantage by Ms Picoult in Alice’s observations and their authors are credited. I found the “Alice” parts of the novel absorbing, the details of her observations easy to follow and written for people like me, i.e. those not conversant with the finer details of animal behavioural science. It is obvious from Alice’s story that she would not desert her daughter.
Virgil Stanhope was one of the police officers who investigated Alice’s disappearance, but not too thoroughly. On the night Alice disappeared, there was a death at the elephant sanctuary owned by Mathew. When the death is ruled an accident, a missing person is of little interest. Although Virgil thinks there is a need for more investigation, his partner is about to retire and doesn’t want to make any waves. When Jenna finds Virgil, he is drunk, not unusual for him.
Serenity on the other hand is quite sober, but despite her former fame as a celebrity psychic, by her own admission she is now a fake, relying on the person’s body language to make her readings. Initially she rejects Jenna’s request for help – she doesn’t read for children, but despite her reluctance she is drawn in by Jenna’s need for closure.
As Jenna, Virgil and Serenity join forces to find Alice, their individual stories are revealed, but I was not prepared for the massive twist that significantly changed the complexion of the whole novel.
On the cover are the words “Nothing will replace a mother’s love” and love is a strong theme in this novel. Is this usual for a Jodi Picoult novel? I can’t answer because as I have already said this is only my second Picoult novel. I do know however that two other novels by this author, living for a while on my eReader, will be read.
Jodi Picoult writes a good story, she develops her characters and whilst some of the plot is predictable, I did not anticipate the “twist in the tale”. Jodi’s fans probably have her latest novel on order; new readers I recommend you introduce yourself to her work via Leaving Time.
Sincere thanks to Allen and Unwin, via The Reading Room for my ARC.
About the Author
Jodi Picoult is the author of twenty-two novels, including the #1 New York Times bestsellers The Storyteller, Lone Wolf, Between the Lines, Sing You Home, House Rules, Handle with Care, Change of Heart, Nineteen Minutes, and My Sister’s Keeper.
She was born and raised —happily—on Long Island… something that she believed at first was a detriment to a girl who wanted to be a writer. “I had such an uneventful childhood that when I was taking writing classes at college, I called home and asked my mother if maybe there might have been a little incest or domestic abuse on the side that she’d forgotten about,” Picoult recalls. “It took me a while to realise that I already did have something to write about – that solid core of family, and the knotty tangle of relationships, which I keep coming back to in my books”.
She and Tim and their three children live in Hanover, New Hampshire with a dog, a rabbit, two Jersey calves, and the occasional Holstein.