Book Reviews

Book Review: Leaving Time by Jodi Picoult

Summary from Indigo

Alice Metcalf was a devoted mother, loving wife and accomplished scientist who studied grief among elephants. Yet it’s been a decade since she disappeared under mysterious circumstances, leaving behind her small daughter, husband, and the animals to which she devoted her life. All signs point to abandonment…or worse. Still Jenna–now 13 years old and truly orphaned by a father maddened by grief–steadfastly refuses to believe in her mother’s desertion. So she decides to approach the 2 people who might still be able to help her find Alice: a disgraced psychic named Serenity Jones, and Virgil Stanhope, the cynical detective who first investigated her mother’s disappearance and the strange, possibly linked death of 1 of her mother’s co-workers. Together these 3 lonely souls will discover truths destined to forever change their lives. Deeply moving and suspenseful, Jodi Picoult’s first novel with Random House Canada is a radiant exploration of the enduring love between mothers and daughters.

My Opinion: 

I’ve read a ton of Jodi Picoult books, and this one I think is not the MOST intriguing, but it is so different as opposed to some of the other books I have read from her. The amount of research and time this book took her just amazes me. The sad elephant memories that Alice sometimes flashes back to were incredibly heart wrenching for me, and it had me feeling all sorts of feels. Seriously, I was more interested in Alice’s life more than I was with Jenna and her quest to find her mother. 

I love how Jodi has integrated the whole detective VS psychic argument into this book. It definitely throws off the balance for the reader, and makes us question what is fact, and what is a “coincidence?” To be honest though, I only liked the book until the very moment Jenna finds out the truth. I really don’t think it was necessary for Jodi to keep it going much longer after that point; yes, it is nice that we learn what we learn, but I think the dramatic factor this book had going for it would have been a nice take-away, rather than all loose ends being tied. 

I wouldn’t necessarily claim Jenna, Virgil, and Serenity as the best characters Jodi has ever created, but I think the qualities they have between themselves is good enough. When talking about these characters, the whole point of this novel to me is that it takes the whole elephant herd to raise the babies. Virgil, Serenity, and Jenna have created their own herd, and help raise each other up, learning and teaching from one another in the most beautiful way. They aren’t the only herd – the Elephant Sanctuary herd/employees helping to raise Jenna, the elephants adopting other babies…there are countless examples of herds in this novel, which makes it that much more special. With that being said, I get the idea and the point behind majorly flawed characters and the way they complete each other, but I still don’t like them all that much. My favourite, if I had to choose one, is Serenity because she’s definitely the coolest, and I could not have chosen a better character to have a psychic ability. 

It takes an entire herd to raise an elephant calf – “Leaving Time”, pg. 403 (Acknowledgments)

Final Grade:

I give this book a 6/10. It’s a good book, in the sense that it is well written and thought-out, which is high on my “what to look for in a book” list. However, when comparing Leaving Time to other books that I’ve read by Jodi Picoult, I think she’s produced a lot better novels in the past. That’s not to say you shouldn’t read this book! It’s a great read if you’re looking for a fictional way to learn about elephants, or if you just love books that integrate animals as a major focus. I have always strongly believed that literature speaks volumes to society and paves the way for the future – and this book gets a 10/10 in that category from me. 

What are your thoughts for this book? How does it compare to other books you’ve read by Jodi Picoult?

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