Jodi Picoult is a modern-day author who keeps writing one novel after another, and her creativity never fails. Of her 22 novels, I have only read four (including this one), but each one has surprised me in so many ways that I can no longer deny my love for Mrs. Picoult.
“Leaving Time” fits into Picoult’s favorite genre—mystery. It begins from the point-of-view of a 13-year-old girl named Jenna who has not seen her mother in 10 years. Living with her grandmother, Jenna spends her summer visiting her mentally unstable father in a mental institution, folding dollar bills into elephants and searching the Internet for any leads on where her mother possibly could be.
You see, 10 years ago at the elephant sanctuary that Jenna’s father owned and where her mother worked, an employee was found dead, and Jenna’s mother, Alice, was found unconscious and was taken to the hospital. Before a detective could investigate further, Alice signed herself out of the hospital, Jenna’s father lost his mind and Gideon, another sanctuary employee, followed the elephants to their new home at a sanctuary in Tennessee. The case was closed.
Jenna struggles with three possible reasons as to why her mother left: First, her mother abandoned her because she did not love or want her anymore; or, her mother ran away with the idea to come back for her but for some reason could not return; lastly, her mother is dead. After so many years of searching, Jenna finally decides to request the help of a once-famous psychic named Serenity, who is now afraid to admit she has lost her psychic power. Jenna thinks if Serenity can reach her mother, then her mother is dead, which would explain why she never returned for her. But, if Serenity cannot reach her mother, her mother must be alive. Then there is Virgil, the detective who was in charge of the case many years ago. After an attempted car accident suicide, Virgil spends his days as a drunken private investigator, yet he, Serenity and Jenna make quite the team by the end of the novel.
Like any Picoult novel, the story is told from multiple points of view—one being Jenna’s mother, even though readers have no idea if she is even alive. Her sections grew to be my favorite because of her tales about elephants, which also hint at her relationship with Jenna. “I would argue that there is a special empathy elephants have for mothers and children—either their own species’ or another’s,” she writes. “That relationship seems to hold a precious significance and a bittersweet knowledge: An elephant seems to understand that if you lose a baby, you suffer.”
I’ll admit, this novel is confusing. At one point you will laugh, the next you will cry and by the end you will be yelling, “WTF!” Not only is this story great because it is full of cute and sad stories based off of real elephants, but the emotion it brings out as a reader is like nothing I have ever experienced before. If you read this novel, you will not be disappointed.