Leaving Time is Jodi Picoult’s latest release, due out this coming week. It’s been buzz worthy for months on line, and it’s sure to take a key spot on any list of the best Jodi Picoult books ever. Leaving Time doesn’t disappoint. Diehard fans of Jodi Picoult books will want to race out, download or order this one now on Amazon. Jodi Picoult books are almost always instant blockbuster best-sellers. Leaving Time is likely to dominate the New York Times bestseller’s list for months. It will also be a huge hit with book lovers this holiday season. But is it one of the best Jodi Picoult books yet?
From the time my kids were babies I have been a huge Jodi Picoult fangirl. When my babies were tiny, I used to take them for a lot of stroller walks. It was a means of getting outdoors, exercising and keeping the girls occupied too. Occasionally it tired my girls out too. Many of those walks landed us at the local library branch near our house. It was one of those mornings, after Books for Babies, when I found on the hot books display stand a copy of Tenth Circle by an author I had never heard of called Jodi Picoult. I picked it up and was enthralled. I signed it out and read it, unable to put it down. The next week at Books For Babies I picked up Nineteen Minutes. Well that was it, from the opening sentence I was done, lost to Jodi world as my husband calls it. Over the last decade I have sought out each of the Jodi Picoult books and read them all. The saddest moment ever in my world is the last page of a Picoult novel. When I finish one of her beautiful page-turners, I know I will have a small reader’s hangover of sorts waiting for the next novel to appear. Now that I have read every single thing Picoult has ever written, I can no longer visit the library and get my fix. One year is a very long time for a diehard Picoult fangirl like me.
This summer Leaving Time showed up here in advanced view format and I was giddy. The theme of memory resonated with me as many of you also know I have recently lost my Mom to acute pneumonia that was also tied to her Alzheimer’s disease and dementia. It has been an extremely sad time after months of learning about the brain and how memory works and also how it fails to work. Memory is such an incredibly sad thing to see vanish. The predominant themes of memory, family, love, grief, motherhood and loss are all contained in Leaving Time as the title hints. Needless to say I connected with the plot and the characters immediately.
Leaving Time is the story of a young girl names Jenna Metcalf who is obsessed with her mother’s disappearance. She is a bit of a loner and she lives with her grandmother. Jenna constructs lies and often tells her grandmother she is babysitting or sleeping over at a friend’s house so she can investigate her mother’s disappearance. In Jenna’s memory her mother Alice exists as a beautiful passionate woman who helped run an elephant sanctuary and studied elephant grief. Jenna’s father is equally passionate but moody and eventually we learn he is also extremely mental ill. Jenna’s obsession is all consuming. Abandoned as a child, she is wounded and not able to believe that her mother could have simply left her behind, either by death, or otherwise, so she pours over old newspaper snippets, journals, and follows an on line trail, hoping to find closure. She is a slightly naive and entirely unique main character. You have to read the book in order to understand fully all the nuances of character.
Jenna constructs a ragtag team of helpers, with a disgraced celebrity psychic and a jaded private detective. Together they grow to become a small family searching for the truth about Alice. Serenity Jones, Virgil Stanhope and Jenna clash often and, at times, seem unlikely to be able to finish the job they have been thrown together to complete. But each carries with them a history of complex emotional baggage that weighs them down at times, and volleys them forward in some mission to prove they can once again have purpose. Despite their regular conflicts and squabbles Serenity and Virgil begin to feel some emotional responsibility for Jenna’s youth and mental health and so they will follow through with their investigations, even when that means they are chasing Jenna across the country on their own dime.
Many Jodi novels have a sort of formula that works. I am not knocking that at all. It is tried and true and it is often the framework for other things that are extremely creative, such as plot twists and plot devices, so even when the books rely on a formula it is completely overshadowed by other things. We know with Picoult that the subject matter will often be ripped from the headlines and built into a great fictional story. We know the characters will often be children. The emotional buy in is often fast and intense because of the child characters at centre of the plot. The story will almost always involve the use of multiple narrators, providing more than one viewpoint and driving the plot forward nicely. This is often so well done that it really keeps the novel moving forward fast for the reader. Multiple narrative viewpoints can be clunky when they aren’t done well, but here they work. We also always know that Jodi will twist something near the final stage of the novel and it will be a stunning revelation that shocks you. I am not in the business of sharing spoilers that ruin the reading experience so I won;t start now. But there is a gigantic plot twist here that is incredibly artful and well done. There are so many reasons I found Leaving Time to be Jodi Picoult’s best book yet. The strength of the writing, the plot and characters. The plot twist. Sometimes it’s just reading the right book at the right time that makes a topic resonate as well. Regardless of the whys, Leaving Time is my new favourite Jodi Picoult book. Go buy it and tell me what you think.
Jodi Picoult is the author of 22 novels. The Lone Wolf, My Sister’s Keeper and The Storyteller were each the # 1 New York Times bestsellers. My Sister’s Keeper was made into a movie. As I noted I have read each of her novels and thoroughly enjoyed all of them. The Lone Wolf was the only one that left me a tiny bit unsatisfied. But many disagreed with me about that one.
Leaving Time is by Jodi Picoult, Ballantine Books, out this coming week, 2014, $28.00 in hard cover format, 406 pages.
$$$$$ out of $$$$$. This might be one of the best books I have ever read. For sure it’s Picoult’s best novel yet. Brilliant.