Leaving Time is the 22nd novel from best-selling author, Jodi Picoult. It also doesn’t waste a moment in hooking you into the story. The book is a suspenseful mystery told from the perspectives of four different characters and is a well-crafted and clever look at grief, loss, love and friendship that occasionally requires a suspension of disbelief.

The story is predominantly about a determined 13-year-old named Jenna. When she was three her mother Alice went missing in mysterious circumstances after a tragic accident at the elephant sanctuary Jenna’s father owned. Alice was a devoted parent and wife and acclaimed scientist and Jenna finds it hard to reconcile all of this information. She cannot understand why her mother would abandon her, so she enlists the help of a failed TV psychic named Serenity and a grizzled private investigator and former detective named Virgil to find out what really happened.

The narrative bounces around though space and time as these relatable characters describe various events from their own perspectives. The other major plotline comes courtesy of Alice and her journals as she describes her history (working in Africa) and her work with elephants at the sanctuary. The discussion about the elephants makes for an interesting metaphor and these informative stories are often based on real elephants that are housed at an Elephant Sanctuary in Tennessee.

The biggest problem with Alice’s chapters however is that they are often too clinical, academic and difficult to read. These ones really only get exciting at the end as the circumstances surrounding that fateful night are finally revealed. The rest of the chapters are much more gripping as Picoult writes quite lyrical prose and rich descriptions of events and scenes that hook the reader in.

Jodi Picoult excels at threading together the different story lines and fashioning these into a well-crafted and accessible novel. She skilfully reveals things layer by layer and even throws in some twists to retain your interest. Ultimately, these important elements combine to make one detailed puzzle. It means that the final resolution is unexpected (and for some readers this may even be a little dissatisfying).

In Leaving Time, Picoult expertly shines a light on the terrible plight suffered by some elephants in the world. She also makes us feel a great deal of empathy for some tortured individuals. Many readers may be pleased to know that there are two novellas that serve as prequels to this story which focus on Serenity and Alice’s earlier lives. As such, Leaving Time is a book you can really get into and finish quickly as you sit on the edge of your seat waiting to know what actually happened. In sum, this is one engrossing and emotional ride that will fire your neurons and warm your heart almost simultaneously.


Originally published on 29 December 2014 at the following website:

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