I discovered Jodi Picoult at the place lots of great discoveries are made – Target.
On Thanksgiving Day 2006 I fell on the sidewalk in front of my house and broke my arm. It was a very serious break and I was left in a fetching brace/sling combo for 6 months. By December I was looking for some new authors to read and Jodi Picoult’s The Tenth Circle (just out in paperback) caught my eye. I finished the book in two days, and spent the next few weeks reading everything else she’d written. Until recently if anyone had asked me which was my favorite, I would have had a hard time answering. Then I read Leaving Time.
Leaving Time is an incredible novel. It is the story of Alice, a scientist who studies elephant behavior, and her daughter Jenna. Alice disappeared from their New Hampshire town after a fatal accident at the elephant sanctuary she ran with her husband. Her husband is now in a mental hospital, and Jenna is being cared for by her grandmother. The question of Alice’s whereabouts haunts Jenna, and so she turns to Serenity, a former psychic to the stars and Virgil, a cop-turned Private Investigator. In the interest of full disclosure, I had read Ms. Picoult’s Where There’s Smoke, over the summer. This short story introduces Serenity and gives her back story. I loved Serenity from the first page. She is such a vividly painted character, and I could see her in my mind and hear her voice. I was anxious to start Leaving Time because I wasn’t sure how Serenity would fit in with a story about elephants and grief. Let me assure you, she fits in just fine.
Jenna was also very clear to me, as is Alice. I don’t want to give away too much of the story, but I knew from the first few pages Alice was alive. I knew it because I believed Jenna when she said she knew it. Ms. Picoult’s novels are always filled with vivid characters, but there is just something about these characters that makes you love them almost instantly. Jenna’s grief, Alice’s pain, Serenity and Virgil’s feelings of failure are so clearly described you get drawn in to the action with them. Even the elephants become characters in the story – their actions are their dialogue and you feel as if you know them, too.
Ms. Picoult is known for her endings, and I can promise you, this one will not disappoint. I don’t want to say anymore than that so I don’t give anything away, but just – WOW. I finished the book over a week ago and I am still thinking about it.
And so, I would give Leaving Time 5 stars, and go so far as to call it my favorite book by one of my favorite authors. Get yourself a copy if you haven’t already…and until next time, you can find me reading.