Thursday, March 19, 2015

Book Review: Leaving Time

Jodi Picoult is one of the few authors who I preorder books for. Whenever I see that she has announced the release date for an upcoming book, I immediately add it to my phone's calendar and sometime before it is released, I will preorder it to make sure the book is on my doorstep on the day of release. 

I have been completely hooked on Picoult's writing ever since I read Nineteen Minutes during my freshman year of college. As someone who was going into the field of education, the whole premise of the novel shook me, but, oddly, in a good way; in a way that made me want to continually read every book that is released by Picoult, including her Wonder Woman comic book. Her novels make you think about things in a way you never have before, and that is something every writer should strive to do.

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Leaving Time was released this past fall and I devoured it. Like many of Picoult's other novels, and what is becoming increasingly popular in today's fiction, each chapter is told from the perspective of a different character and part of it is told in past tense in order to fill in the necessary back story. It does not take very long for the reader to care about the characters.

The main protagonist is an intelligent, funny teenage girl named Jenna who is the perfect mix of curious and stubborn without being annoying or precocious; she immediately endears herself to the reader. Jenna is being raised by her grandmother and is trying to figure out the puzzle of why her mother, Alice, disappeared from the New England Elephant Sanctuary. 

This plot line ties in beautifully with another that is heavily centered on elephants--how they grieve and how scientists try to reckon what can be observed logically and what can be discovered by observing emotion. It ties in so well to the human drama, that the elephants are not unnecessary background, but are just as vital in their personalities as the human characters are. Family dynamics and their impact, whether in terms of elephant families or people families, are the heart of the novel.

Towards the middle of the novel, it starts to descend into psychics and one of the main characters is a disgraced psychic, but even with bringing that additional element into a novel with so many other things going on (missing mother, endangered species, a skeptical ex-police officer, scientists), the novel somehow works. Picoult's deft writing brings all the elements together in a way that not only makes sense, but feels right. Not many writers can do that.

Leaving Time is an engaging read, one where you will be shocked at the ending and feel the need to sniffle into some tissues at the same time. You may even want to search out elephant sanctuaries like I did. I give Picoult's novel a 9 out of 10

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