Thursday, July 6, 2017

Review of "Leaving Time" by Jodi Picoult

Thirteen-year-old Jenna is consumed with the loss of her mother, Alice. Jenna's family lived on an elephant sanctuary in New Hampshire, where both her scientist parents worked. A tragic occurrence on the compound ten years ago, when Jenna was three, resulted in the death of a woman and serious injury to Alice. Alice was taken to the hospital, from which she disappeared. At the same time Jenna's dad was confined to a mental institution and Jenna went to live with her grandmother. Jenna obsessively reads her mother's journals and scans missing persons sites on the computer - hoping to find clues to her mother's whereabouts.

Jenna has now decided to take action. She contacts Serenity, a once renowned but now disgraced psychic, and Virgil, a former police detective who originally investigated the tragic incident at the elephant sanctuary. Both agree to help Jenna look for her mom. The book is told from rotating points of view, including Jenna, Alice, Serenity, and Virgil.

Also interspersed with the story are extensive passages about elephants, who are highly intelligent animals with close family ties. An elephant mother would never desert her family, unlike what Alice apparently did to Jenna. The book contains a lot of information about elephants: how they live, what they eat, how they behave, how they play, how they grieve for deceased loved ones, and so on. Also, sadly, how elephants are mistreated in captivity, especially circuses. This was all interesting but did slow the story down (and might bore readers uninterested in the subject).

As the story unfolds the reader learns about events at the elephant sanctuary that led to the tragedy all those years ago as well as the current search for information about Alice. The book has an unexpected denouement which I found bewildering, and this reduced my overall enjoyment of the story. Still, this is a good book with engaging characters, worth reading. It's also a compelling treatise about elephants and an advocate for their humane treatment.

Rating: 3.5 stars


  1. I have this one on my TBR. Her books always seem to have a message and relate to a social or environmental issue but in an entertaining story. Thanks for the good review.

  2. Carla, I'm glad you like the review. Yes, I agree Picoult is an issue-oriented author. This book is very heavy on the elephant theme, which I think is a little unusual.