I’m still in the beginning stages of my Jodi Picoult fandom, but I feel confident in saying The Pact and Nineteen Minutes are very “quintessential Jodi” — suspenseful, crime-based, mysterious, gut-wrenchingly emotional. Her latest, Leaving Time, is less “quintessential Jodi” but my new favorite nonetheless, mostly because of the elephants.
Alice Metcalf is a scientist who studies elephants, specifically their exceptional memory and human-like grief practices. Jenna Metcalf is Alice’s 13-year-old daughter who has been desperately searching for Alice ever since she disappeared after a tragic accident at the New Hampshire elephant sanctuary their family owned and ran. In order to find her mother ten years after her disappearance, Jenna enlists the help of Serenity Jones, a psychic whose powers are a bit rusty, and Virgil Stanhope, a depressed ex-detective who investigated the original case a decade ago. Still with me?
The story flip-flops between the perspectives of Alice, Jenna, Serenity and Virgil, so throughout the book the reader, like Jenna, holds onto hope that Alice is in fact alive somewhere, and it’s only a matter of time before the unlikely team finds her. They start by going back to the abandoned sanctuary to find clues missed the first time around — Alice’s wallet, a fingernail, a strand of red hair — and questioning Alice’s mentally ill father. While Serenity tries desperately to connect with the spirit world, Virgil is riddled with guilt over ignoring what was right in front of him ten years ago, and he doesn’t know how to tell Jenna that he thinks Alice might have been the one to commit a crime.
There is a SERIOUS turn of events at the way end of the book — think The Sixth Sense, THAT’S ALL I’M SAYING — and I don’t know if I liked that/agreed with that direction, but I really loved all the stuff about elephants. There are some sad stories about elephant mommies losing their calves and elephants being abused by circuses and other owners, but most of it is Alice’s observations of elephants in the wild. They are truly fascinating creatures. I am immensely impressed with how much research Jodi must have done for the book, and I now want to save and protect every single elephant on Earth.
I highly recommend this book to fellow fans of Jodi (and elephants), and I leave you with this quote (which I already shared on Facebook, that’s how you know I really like it):
What I think is that there is no perspective in grief, or in love. How can there be, when one person becomes the center of the universe — either because he has been lost or because he has been found?