Let me start by saying I’ve spent the last ten months immersed in British and American literature, from the classic to the obscure. It took me an entire agonizing week to trudge through a Forster novel, so when my final semester started winding down, I decided to reward myself by purchasing a Kindle Fire and Jodi Picoult’s October 2014 release Leaving Time. Seventy-two hours later, I’d read all 400+ pages…for the most part.
I’m always intrigued by Picoult’s conflict and style; that’s why I stay engaged with her work. She manages to create intricate conflicts that dip low and rise high as realistic characters evolve individually and in relation to one another along the way. I love the alternating chapters that shift perspective amongst the various main characters. And the Law & Order junkie in me is a sucker for the legal twists that are usually involved in the plot in some creative way.
Leaving Time is characteristic Picoult in regard to the conflict and style, though the legal aspect that is usually served by some court case or battle actually manifests as a former detective who helps thirteen-year-old Jenna search for her mother following her disappearance ten years prior. Add to the cast the washed-up celebrity psychic Serenity, Jenna’s institutionalized father, and her mother’s presence in chapters from her journals, and you’ve already got me hooked into Picoult’s world.
But wait, there’s more. Picoult also loves to work a good angle, which provides a motif and a relevant context for her poignant tidbits of reflection woven into each story. In House Rules, the background is the intricacy of autism. In The Storyteller, it’s World War II. In Handle with Care, it’s the rare disease osteogenesis imperfecta. The angle in Leaving Time? Elephants. Yes, elephants. Both Jenna’s father and mother study elephants, work toward their preservation, observe and record their cognitive abilities and habits–especially in the areas of memory and grief. Appropriate for a story about a girl looking for her lost mother, right? That’s what Picoult does.
Overall, I enjoyed Leaving Time. It was the perfect reward for passing my MA exit exam and relaxation prior to finals week. I sincerely enjoyed the “elephant chapters” and how they aligned with the human characters’ emotions and situations. The mystery that unfolds is compelling, and the resolution completely unexpected. The explorations of motherhood and loss were resonant. I will admit, I rushed through the last 7% of the novel (not sure how many pages…Kindle reading…sigh), but that was mostly out of my own anxiety to get to the ending and get to bed at a decent hour on a Sunday night. I do think maybe Picoult dragged out the elephant info in the end, and it interfered with my reading experience. But then again, maybe I was just in a hurry.
I didn’t post any discussions on Blackboard all weekend, and I definitely didn’t start my final proposal paper for Theories of Teaching Writing or my research paper about the importance of chronology in James Joyce’s short story “Araby.” Instead, I made time for Leaving Time, and overall I’d say it was worth it.