I’ve been fascinated by elephants since I was a toddler. I vividly recall my imaginary friends, Peter and Cranberry, a married elephant couple who lived in my closet with 99 babies. One of my first tattoos was a ring of elephants in honor of those imaginary stories I used to tell about my elephant friends. I wrote research reports on elephants and imagined one day seeing elephants in the wild. Jodi Picoult’s newest work reinvigorated my fascination with elephants and taught me more than a few new things about these amazing beings.
Leaving Time is told from multiple narrators–Jenna, the daughter of Alice and Thomas, researchers into animal grief and the overseers of an animal preserve; Serenity, a psychic Jenna has gone to for help finding her mother; Virgil, a washed-up detective, who may have made some mistakes 10 years ago, and Alice herself, who writes about studying elephants. Essentially, Jenna wants to know what happened to her mother ten years ago at the animal sanctuary. By enlisting Serenity and Virgil, she begins to uncover some of the truth of the mysterious events surrounding a death and a disappearance.
Picoult is a great storyteller, and this text is no exception. Here, she incorporates research about elephants, memory, and grief, but she also ties it to relationships, motherhood, love, and loss. One of the elements about her work that I love is the way she tells a story–everything she writes sucks me right in and spits me out the other side. It is hard to pick up one of her books and try to put it down voluntarily. While this book vaguely brought to mind Lone Wolf, about a family and the wolves they take care of, to me it surpassed that story of man and nature. I think this is one of her best books–not just for the story, but for the crafted language and beautiful metaphors peppering the book. As usual, I’ve chosen some particularly moving passages that stood out to me as I read:
- “I work with elephants because it’s like watching people at a cafe…they’re funny, heartbreaking, inventive, intelligent…there’s just so much of us in them.”
- “grief is really like an ugly couch. It never goes away. You can decorate around it; you can slap a doily on top of it; you can push it into the corner of the room–but eventually you learn to live with it.”
- “It was almost as if there was a tear in the fabric I was made of, and he was the only color thread that would match to stitch it up.”
- “it’s not that he doesn’t love you enough to tell you the truth, it’s that he loves you too much to risk it.”
- “In Tswana, there is a saying” Go o ra motho, ga gi lelwe. Where there is support, there is no grief.”
- “Sometimes I think there’s no such thing as falling in love. It’s just the fear of losing someone.”