I won this book in a Goodreads Giveaway last year, and I regret that it has taken me so long to finish it and review it. Regardless, thank you Allen and Unwin publishers for the book. Please note that my review is based on an uncorrected proof of Leaving Time.
Picoult’s books and I have a weird relationship.
My first book by Picoult was Nineteen Minutes, which I read when I was in high school. I enjoyed it immensely, and I drank in the different perspectives, the controversy, the narratives — and for an impressionable, naive high school student, I was shaken by the traumas of the characters and the effects of bullying (I had an extremely fortunate childhood). In contrast, my second Picoult book was My Sister’s Keeper, which I vehemently despised. I found the narratives emotionally manipulative, and the ending an out-of-field, cheap deus ex machina that left me so angry I vowed to never pick up another Picoult book again.
So, it is by good fortune that I won Leaving Time in that Goodreads giveaway, because I think I am now willing to retract my assertion. To my surprise, I actually enjoyed Leaving Time. Though extremely slow to start (hence why it took me so long to finish it), once you pass the midway mark the pace picks up and the plot develops into a compelling, intriguing narrative that hooked me until the finish.
Like most Picoult books, Leaving Time has multiple perspectives in a parallel narrative (one in the present and the other in the past). I am usually apprehensive to multiple narratives, but with Leaving Time I found that as the story progressed, the story developed, the characters fleshed and the plot and mystery deepened. Further to my surprises, I found that I connected with the characters – though I would not qualify them as profound or utterly memorable, there was just something striking in their circumstances that I couldn’t help but connect with them, empathize with their struggles and their demons, and hope that they could find what they were looking for to move on.
On that note, I think it’s necessary for me to say that I love elephants – they’re one of my favourite animals. Leaving Time has a lot of anecdotes about elephants, given that elephants are central to some of the characters’ occupations, and I enjoyed reading these small stories about them. However, if you don’t care for elephants, parts of the book may read like non-fiction. However, the integrating elephants into the narrative is without purpose – ultimately, Leaving Time is about motherhood and the bonds we – and elephants – have with our mothers. It is exploring the depth of those bonds, the inherent nature of them, and explores the impact of grief and loss should we ever lose it.
Despite my positive opinions about this book, the downside is that it was exceptionally slow to start, and it took a significant amount of effort to finish it. Suffice to say, it took me a few months to get through the first half of the book, but only took me three days to finish the second half. The second half enthralled me, but the first half bored me. Although I enjoyed the mystery aspect of the novel, even going as far to say that I liked the twist (in which I actually surprised myself), it was only the end of the book that justified my reading experience of Leaving Time. There is not much else to savour except the end, and whilst this book ties nicely in the end, it was disappointing that the book ended when it started to get interesting.
It seems that every reader has differing opinions on the elephant anecdotes and the Picoult plot twist, so if you decide to read it, proceed with caution because liking this book really boils down to personal taste. All in all, Leaving Time was a good read, and I would recommend it to fellow elephant lovers.
Book Name: Leaving Time
Author: Jodi Picoult
Publisher: Allen and Unwin