‘Leaving Time’ succeeds with message of grief

Jodi Picoult’s most recent novel, “Leaving Time,” has a message about grief and how the ones we love never truly leave us, even in death.

The novel, released in October, follows 13-year-old Jenna Metcalf, whose mother, Alice, has been missing for 10 years. Jenna wonders why Alice left and questions whether her mother loves her, or not. Alice and her husband, Thomas, ran an elephant sanctuary with a small staff before Alice’s disappearance.

As the story continues, it is revealed that Alice was involved in a horrible accident at the sanctuary. Alice was found unconscious near the dead body of Nevvie, one of the employees of the sanctuary, who was apparently trampled by one of the elephants. After being admitted to the hospital, Alice re-awakened, checked herself out of the hospital and disappeared.

Jenna enlists the help of a disgruntled psychic, Serenity, to locate her mother. She also hires Virgil Stanhope, one of the detectives who investigated the accident. Together, the three make an unlikely team, all with the same goal — to find out what really happened the night Alice disappeared.

Like Picoult’s previous novels, the story shifts between the past and present. With the past storyline, the reader learns how Alice and Thomas met and how their marriage started to fall apart due to Thomas’s mental illness.

At the same time, Alice teaches the reader how elephants are not so different from humans when it comes to grief. Several times, the novel shows Alice studying elephant mothers mourning the loss of their young, either from miscarriages or by other means.

Picoult used the study of elephants powerfully to show how they grieve similar to humans. This allows the reader to realize that even when someone we love dies, they never truly leave us — they’re always there in photos and in our thoughts.

Like with her previous works, Picoult saves some important plot details for the final pages. They definitely come as a surprise, but they are welcomed and add a new spin on the story.

All in all, Picoult succeeded with “Leaving Time.” Fans of Picoult’s other novels and other lovers of books will find the novel a great choice for a weekend read.