Home > 2010, 21st Century, American Literature, Beach and Public Transports Books, Book Club, Novel, Picoult Jodi > Leaving Time by Jodi Picoult – Good reading time

Leaving Time by Jodi Picoult – Good reading time

Leaving Time by Jodi Picoult (2014) French title: La tristesse des éléphants. Translated by Pierre Girard

Leaving Time by Jodi Picoult was our Book Club read for April. It’s a tricky book to review because the risk of spoilers is very high and any hint at the key clue of the book could totally ruin the book for other readers.

So, I’ll go with a light summary of the plot. Jenna Metcalf is 13, she lives in New Hampshire with her grandmother. Jenna’s parents used to run a sanctuary for elephants and Alice’s researches were about grief among elephants. Her father Thomas has been in a psychiatric ward for ten years, since Jenna’s mother Alice disappeared during a fateful night. An elephant caretaker was killed by an elephant, Alice was wounded and she disappeared from the hospital. No one has heard of her since.

Jenna has Alice’s notebooks and she hopes that they hold clues that will help her find her mother. She can’t imagine that her mother left her behind. Her first investigations are online, tracking missing persons and looking for information about her mother and that night’s event. At some point, she decides that she needs help.

She hires Serenity Jones, a medium, in the hope to find out if her mother is dead or alive. Serenity is a gifted medium but she lost all credibility after a public mistake. She used to help the police find missing persons, dead or alive. But she became cocky, used her talents for money and fame and lost her touch. She reluctantly accepts to help Jenna.

Jenna also hires Virgil Stanhope, the cop who was on her mother’s case. He left the police force and now works as a PI, tracking unfaithful spouses. Jenna hopes that he will reopen the investigation and help her.

This unlikely trio teams up to look for Alice. That’s the basic plot. Now my opinion about the book.

The point of view alternates between Jenna, Serenity, Alice and Virgil. Jenna’s, Serenity’s and Virgil’s voices make the story move forward. They relate the current investigation and come back to their personal history, their mistakes and how they arrived at the point where they all met. Alice talks about her research, about the elephants, her life in Africa and her marriage to Thomas.

I enjoyed reading Leaving Time, I was looking forward to the next chapter and had an excellent reading time. The book was suspenseful, well-written and well-constructed. Maybe too well.

It’s flawless like a well-oiled machine, like a Hollywood blockbuster. I thought while I was reading, “I bet she has a degree in literature and studied creative writing.” Bingo, according to Wikipedia. You can feel it when you read. The characters are designed to have issues, our improbable trio of amateur sleuths have the conflicts you expect. Each character of the drama that happened ten years ago has a secret past and personal wounds. It’s as good as a TV series, and I say that without any contempt.

I was absorbed and interested in Alice’s research about elephants. I was invested in the story, I was in New Hampshire with the characters and forgot where I was for a while. The ending threw me off.

Jodi Picoult will never be a genius of literature but it’s OK. She writes well and holds her reader’s attention. Sometimes we don’t need more, because entertainment and escapism are a precious commodity in today’s world.

  1. May 2, 2021 at 2:06 am

    I’m sure I’ve read a Jodi Picoult at some time. I checked her list of novels, but none of the names rang a bell. I love your summation: “The characters are designed to have issues ..”. I don’t like feeling manipulated, but like you, I don’t mind being entertained by pleasant character-based fiction. (I think you got the better title – The sadness of elephants (or is it “grief”)).


    • May 2, 2021 at 8:09 am

      I’ll know to pick one of her books when I want well-written and entertainment. Leaving Time is most likely a good driving companion, if you find it in audiobook.

      “tristesse” means both “sadness” and “grief”. That’s why we have so many difficulties with English. You often have two words when we have one and we have to learn which to use according to the context. (foreigner/stranger, leap/jump,…)

      Liked by 1 person

  2. May 2, 2021 at 1:53 pm

    I don’t think I’ve ever read Picoult. This sounds like something I’d like to watch a TV adaptation of, rather than read the book. I really enjoyed your review and totally agree we need some escapism at the moment!


    • May 2, 2021 at 9:18 pm

      I don’t remember seeing a review of one of her books among the bloggers I follow;

      Her book is good craft and worth reading. The bits about the grief among elephants and the death rituals that they have were interesting. Alice has an interesting voice and she raises good questions about what we consider peculiar to human beings, like empathy, grief…

      Liked by 2 people

  3. May 2, 2021 at 2:02 pm

    I’ve not read her, but I take your points. Sometimes we want the more complex stuff, sometimes we want escapism and entertainment – and there should be room for both!


    • May 2, 2021 at 9:20 pm

      There’s definitely room for both. This is why I have the “beach and public transports” category & tag. I file there all the books that are good entertainment, don’t require a quiet environment to read and are engrossing.

      Liked by 2 people

  4. May 2, 2021 at 6:14 pm

    I’ve not read any Picoult but she is definitely very popular here. She seems to be very supportive of other writers and isn’t afraid to speak out for good causes and put her money behind her words, so all power to you Jodi Picoult!


    • May 2, 2021 at 9:23 pm

      I’ve read her Wikipedia page and yes, she seems to be a nice lady who is invested in various causes.
      Here she’s published by an excellent publishing house, Actes Sud and they’re a stamp of approval for me. I’m rarely disappointed with what they publish.

      Liked by 2 people

  5. May 2, 2021 at 6:59 pm

    I quite like your comment about creative writing; although it’s a bit unfair to generalise, I sometimes feel there’s something too studied about it, both in the characters and the style. I’m glad you enjoyed the read as I remember you were uncertain about it originally.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. May 2, 2021 at 9:25 pm

    She sounds more like a craftwoman than an artist but it’s ok, she’s an excellent craftwoman.

    You remember right, I wasn’t sure I’d like it. It’s published by Actes Sud, though, and they usually pick books that I like.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. buriedinprint
    May 11, 2021 at 10:32 pm

    Hah. Beach and Public Transport indeed. That’s a perfect description. I’ve read two or three–you know what to expect and she serves it up reliably, even though the details change. I’m a big fan of elephant stories overall.


    • May 13, 2021 at 8:41 am

      Well, we need Beach and Public Transport books and reliable and well-written novels are precious for that.

      Have you read The Roots of Heaven by Romain Gary? That’s a pretty good one, if you enjoy elephant stories.


  8. May 22, 2021 at 1:56 am

    I did read this book and am glad you wrote the review the way you did. I was surprised at the ending. I believe I started several of her books but can’t remember much about them. My Sister’s Keeper is one of these. Her characters are interesting, but I don’t care about them the way I do in books like The Nightingale and All the Light We Cannot See.


    • May 22, 2021 at 10:09 pm

      The ending surprised everyone, I suppose. Although, when you think about it, there are clues all along.
      I may read another of her books when I look for something well-written and easy to read.


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