There is this deep-rooted need in me to make some small attempt at explaining my
love obsession for Jodi Picoult. Whatever I say, though, won’t even come close to what I really feel for her work. Sometimes I get personally offended when people don’t like her work and actively avoid reading reviews for her books so I don’t go into rants with people who dislike a book. I get it, that’s completely unfair of me to do as we all have different tastes in books and stories – but I mainly want you to understand how much I love her work no matter if you agree or disagree.
That being said, I have been on a kick recently of wanting to re-read all of her books. Last year I read House Rules and My Sister’s Keeper (both for the 4th of 5th time total). This year I wanted to add a few more re-reads of her work I don’t typically pick up when doing re-reads. While on the subject of things I’ve been into recently, I have to add audio books to the top of that list. So, I was browsing the library e-books and saw that Leaving Time wasn’t in use and decided to give it a shot. Granted, I usually prefer her books in physical form so I was extremely hesitant to pick this up on audio but gave it a shot anyway. The first hour of it I wasn’t a fan of (mostly told from the side of Jenna, our main character). But after that, I was HOOKED. Let’s discuss!
By: Jodi Picoult
Rating: ★★★★★ (5/5)
For more than a decade, Jenna Metcalf has never stopped thinking about her mother, Alice, who mysteriously disappeared in the wake of a tragic accident. Refusing to believe she was abandoned, Jenna searches for her mother regularly online and pores over the pages of Alice’s old journals. A scientist who studied grief among elephants, Alice wrote mostly of her research among the animals she loved, yet Jenna hopes the entries will provide a clue to her mother’s whereabouts.
Desperate to find the truth, Jenna enlists two unlikely allies in her quest: Serenity Jones, a psychic who rose to fame finding missing persons, only to later doubt her gifts, and Virgil Stanhope, the jaded private detective who’d originally investigated Alice’s case along with the strange, possible linked death of one of her colleagues. As the three work together to uncover what happened to Alice, they realize that in asking hard questions, they’ll have to face even harder answer.
The moral of this story is that sometimes, you can attempt to make all the difference in the world, and it still is like trying to stem the tide with a sieve.
The moral of this story is that no matter how much we try, no matter how much we want it…some stories just don’t have a happy ending.
I wonder if, as you get older, you stop missing people so fiercely. Maybe growing up is just focusing on what you’ve got, instead of what you don’t.
I tell you this story by way of explanation: The people we define as crazy just might be more sane than you and me.
The sound that a heart makes, when it is breaking, is raw and ugly. And anguish, it’s a waterfall.
Could it be as simple as that? Could love be not granted gestures or empty vows, not promises meant to be broken, but instead a paper trail of forgiveness? A line of crumbs made of memories, to lead you back to the person who was waiting?
Just because you leave someone doesn’t mean you ever let them go.
I said this in another post at one point, but I mentioned that I almost never cry at books – they can be super sad, yet I don’t ever cry. -Insert dramatic cough here- But this book. THIS book.
Jenna is the “main” character and we hear mostly from her. She’s a conflicting character for me – she’s sassy, extremely smart, and unbearably lonely. She has an entire universe of a hole in her soul from missing her mother and, as in most Picoult books, she feels things to an extent I’m unsure many people can comprehend in the real world (mainly, I just mean it doesn’t always seem plausible for a 13 year old to feel as deep as a character like Jenna). Despite this flaw that occasionally irked me, Jenna’s determination and sassiness helped balance out her sadness and confusion in her hunt to find her mother.
Serenity and Virgil are pretty great characters, though significantly different in personalities. Virgil is an old-cop-turned-P.I. who drowns his feelings and regrets with booze and an overall grumpy tone. For me, he mirrors pieces of myself that could easily wind up like him in attempts to mask mistakes, regrets, and pain of the past. On the other hand, Serenity, a psychic, copes differently with her losses and regrets and I enjoyed seeing a great deal of sides of loss and hope within these characters – they are as different as you and me.
But Alice. Dear Alice. She breaks my soul into a million pieces. Not simply because of the story, but because of how she receives information, processes thoughts and emotions, and has this extreme love and understanding of the creatures she has admired her entire life – elephants. Listening to Alice’s chapters made me want to rip my heart out and give it to her in an attempt to heal her soul. I can understand how she could be a somewhat problematic character for some or even unbearable to listen to/read, but I cannot express how much I loved her this time around. At the end, I just kept thinking about the list of things that went wrong or could have been done differently, but then I remembered that that’s life. Sometimes we make choices we cannot take back, or sometimes we don’t know the right answer. Sometimes things don’t work out the way we picture them. Sometimes they do. The imperfection that is Alice is what makes me love her so much. I’m not saying she did everything appropriately or that I condone some of her mistakes, but I still find myself admiring her as a whole and that’s why I loved her so much.
Lastly, the elephants. Picoult always does such a great deal of research for her books in order to give accurate information to readers. There are honestly really difficult things to listen to about poachers, elephant’s lives and deaths, and everything in between. Maybe I have simply always had an overly-bleeding heart for elephants and their diminishing numbers, but Picoult doesn’t stray from rough details and the grief some of these creatures experience through this book. Not only that but you get a chance to learn several things about elephants you might not have easily learned otherwise.
Overall, I refuse to pick this book apart for any of its flaws. Yes, there are flaws. The characters have flaws. The story has flaws. The ending could be highly problematic for some people. No, it took absolutely nothing away from me and in the last hour of this audio book I sat on my couch with tears streaming down my face.
I will almost always recommend Picoult books and after listening to this on audio, I would recommend either version of this book if you have not yet read it. But, be warned, if you experience a lot of emotion while reading this could be one that gets to you like it did for me.
- Have you read Leaving Time?
- Do you enjoy Picoult’s work?
- Did you learn anything new about elephants or believe they can experience grief?
- Did you love or hate the ending?