cover image Leaving Time

Leaving Time

Jodi Picoult. Ballantine, $28 (416p) ISBN 978-0-345-54492-6

Picoult’s (The Storyteller) novel explores grief, memory, and motherhood through the unlikely lens of elephant behavior. Jenna Metcalf was three years old when her mother, Alice, disappeared from the elephant sanctuary where she worked as a researcher. Ten years later, Jenna is ready to launch a search. After poring over her mother’s research journals, consulting the Internet, and visiting her father in the mental institution where he’s been since shortly after the disappearance, she enlists outside assistance from Serenity Jones, a once-famous psychic whose gift appears to have deserted her, and Virgil Stanhope, the gruff, alcoholic ex-police detective who was once assigned to Alice’s case. With their help, Jenna finds new evidence at the now-closed sanctuary and begins to piece together the events of the night her mother disappeared, leading her to a few uncomfortable truths about the past, but bringing much-needed closure to her and her dad. Longtime fans of Picoult will recognize some of her stock characters—the precocious, sassy teenager; the distant, philosophical mother; the curmudgeonly surrogate father figure—as well the her trademark twist ending, which may well be her strangest to date. When she diverges from her usual formula her storytelling skills are most evident. The pachyderms are as complex as the humans, making the journey memorable and poignant. (Oct.)