“If you think about someone you’ve loved and lost, you are already with them. The rest is just details.” – Leaving Time by Jodi Picoult
Leaving Time by Jodi Picoult tells the story of a young girl desperate to find out what happened to her mother so many years ago. After enlisting the help of private detective Virgil Stanhope and a formerly famous psychic Serenity, young Jenna Metcalf sets out to finally determine if her mother is dead or alive. Just like many of Picoult’s other novels, Leaving Time is told from several different perspectives; particularly from Jenna Metcalf’s present-day perspective and her mother Alice’s past perspective.
If you haven’t read the book and plan to, read on with caution, light spoilers ahead….
I’ve read a few of Picoult’s books in the past and Leaving Time felt like a departure from her previous work and while I enjoyed the book, I have to say honestly that it was not one of my favorites. It is easy to understand what a passion project this was for the author and she easily blended her popular story-telling style with her personal research on elephants. I thoroughly enjoyed the characters, especially Jenna, Virgil and Serenity; I found their past and presents colliding to be intriguing and a wonderful blend of personality types. The problem for me was not the overall story of Jenna and her mother Alice, the problem for me was the constant tone of grief and sadness… the problem was the elephants.
“I think grief is like a really ugly couch. It never goes away. You can decorate around it; you can slap a doily on top of it; you can push it to the corner of the room—but eventually, you learn to live with it.”
Alice Metcalf has studied elephant grief most of her adult life and is an expert by the time she decides to leave Africa for a US elephant sanctuary. It is obvious that Picoult did her research and the work is admirable, but the constant barrage of sorrow and sadness as she describes elephants in mourning is not only heartbreaking but it is constant throughout the entire book.
Although I usually rave about Picoult’s work, this is a tough one for me to recommend even though part of me really wants to. The story itself was great when the book wasn’t waxing poetic about pain and loss. I am still a great fan of Jodi Picoult and will continue to read her books in the future, unfortunately Leaving Time was simply a little too on the depressing side for me. I am a great lover of animals and I found the pain the elephants suffered in this book to be too unbearable personally.