It was difficult to delay reading Leaving Time after attending the Jodi Picoult reading and discussion in October. I postponed reading it for my book club discussion next week and I did not want to read it too early. The ending was not what I expected but I really enjoyed the storyline and learned a lot about elephants as I read the book.
Jenna is a young girl looking for her mother, Alice, who had disappeared when she was a toddler. She enlists the help of a pink haired psychic and a retired, run down police officer. Alice was a researcher who ran an elephant sanctuary when Jenna was young. They lived on the grounds with a small group of dedicated workers who formed a little family. An accident happened, a trainer was trampled by an elephant, Alice was injured and then she disappeared from the hospital.
Years later, Jenna, an energetic teenager, is trying to figure out what happened to her missing mother. The unlikely trio search for clues, reflect on the past and try to provide closure relating to this traumatic event. Jenna deals with her grief and confusion, the psychic deals with the loss of her ‘powers’ and the ex-cop deals with his guilt for missing details in the investigation of the trampling years earlier. They are all looking for closure for past events that have been haunting them.
The novel shares detailed research and rich stories about elephants. Picoult included many true stories of the massive animals which were true but with changed identities. It was very interesting to learn about the matriarchal families, how the mother and daughter stay together for life while the sons leave the heard as young teenagers. The stories that were shared show how intelligent and empathetic elephants can be and makes the reader consider the horrible impact of poachers who kill these magnificent creates for their ivory tusks.
“As a female elephant gets older, her memory improves. After all, her family relies on her for information – she is the walking archive that makes the decisions for the herd.”