Leaving Time marks another successful novel by author Jodi Picoult


Photo of author and book cover both taken from Jodi Picoult official website.

ALLISON NG, Guest Contributor

Recently released in bookstores across the nation, Jodi Picoult’s Leaving Time is a novel any avid reader should add to their list.

With its unique blend of scientific facts and a story narrated in a witty, teenage voice, Leaving Time introduces Picoult’s newest approach to realistic fiction, and it’s definitely something worth reading. In this new novel, Picoult shows the depth of love and determination of a daughter delving into her missing mother’s science-filled past in an attempt to locate her.

It sounds sickeningly sentimental, but it’s not.

Thirteen-year old Jenna Metcalf has spent the last ten years gathering any information she could find about her mother, Alice, who disappeared when Jenna was three. Alice, a scientist who studied elephants, left behind many research journals detailing her discoveries, and these journals are Jenna’s primary source in piecing together her mother’s life before she disappeared.

In a sudden spurt of determination, Jenna uses her resources to recruit two helpers to her lifelong investigation of Alice’s disappearance—Serenity Jones (a psychic) and Virgil Stanhope (a detective). As these three embark on a quest for knowledge about Alice, they make many startling discoveries, leading to a shocking twist at the end of the novel.

Picoult does an excellent job in assembling the storyline in Leaving Time. The plot flows at a very steady pace—there was never a point where I was left scratching my head trying to figure out what just happened. The characters are also introduced on a very personal level, because the story is told from four points of view—Jenna, Alice, Serenity, and Virgil.

Senior Rachel Katsman enjoyed seeing the story from multiple perspectives.

“It was great to be able to read about the different characters’ thoughts throughout the book. It really helped explain why the characters acted the way they did,” she said.

The thread that unifies the story is the elephants spoken of in Alice’s research journals. It’s a bit of a strange comparison, but elephant behavior, particularly their grieving habits, symbolize Jenna’s emotional bond with her mother that motivates her on her relentless search for Alice.

No, the basic plotline isn’t the most original thing in the world. In fact, Leaving Time strongly reminded me of another book I’d read years ago: Walk Two Moons by Sharon Creech. Walk Two Moons focuses on daughters on a journey to uncover their mothers’ past or whereabouts, showcasing the strength of human relationships.

Sounds familiar, right?

But the novels are not so similar that I felt like I was reading the same book twice. The story and morals behind Leaving Time are more complex, deep, and unique than those of Walk Two Moons, though that might just be the elephants talking.

The major turnoff about this book is that sometimes it sounds a bit like a zoology textbook. Because elephants play such a huge symbolic role, Picoult dedicates much of her novel to explaining elephant behavior. The advanced terminology, the frequent references to ecology… Well, those typically bring forth memories associated with dreadful late-night cram sessions before a big test.

Nevertheless, I would give Leaving Time 4 out of 5 stars. Its overwhelming focus on ecology could bore you to tears if you’re not a big science person, but the actual story—particularly the ending—definitely makes up for that.