This is not a review of Leaving Time by Jodi Picoult. It is an impassioned rant about it. Is it a good rant or a bad rant? I’ll let you decide.
Rain: This is my rant about Leaving Time, and the first thing I want to say is what an uninspiring title for a beatiful book. “Leaving Time”. Two words that are entirely unemotive and suggest nothing about what the book’s about. Okay, sure, you see where the phrase comes from and it does mean something to the characters at a time, but this aspect is so lightly developed that it really doesn’t do it for me. And to someone who hasn’t read the book the words mean nothing. Ugh! I almost didn’t read it because of the title.
Sebastian: Ah, but you did read it.
Rain: Well, yea. Because elephants. The elephants were glorious and beautiful and touching and I want to meet them all now! The book should have been called something about elephants. “The Grief of Elephants” seems appropriate and captures the feeling of the book so much better than “Leaving Time”.
Sebastian: So what you’re trying to say is–
Rain: Don’t get put off by the title.
Sebastian: I think we got that. I thought the elephants were beautifully portrayed and important to the story too. The way charaters’ emotional journeys were woven into and illuminated by the elephant research was so skillful. This is one of those books that I read and sigh because I know that never in a million years will I be able to write anything so wonderful.
Rain: Hey, this is my rant.
Sebastian: I know, but I also have to say the writing is gorgeous–
Rain: I was going to say that. Don’t you think I know stellar writing when I see it?
Sebastian: I have my doubts. You made us read Fifty Shades of Grey.
Rain: But I knew how bad the writing was. Anyway, back to Leaving Time. Even I was impressed at how the timelines were woven together. I wanted to hear what happened in each one, and each illuminated the other.
Sebastian: “Illuminated”. Wow, you’re using big words tonight.
Rain kicks him in the shin.
Rain: And you know what else was awesome? It had magic! A genuine psychic who used to talk to spirits. Not quite as good as dragons, but close. And elephants stand in for dragons pretty well, even though they don’t breathe fire as much.
Sebastian: I’m glad you approve.
Rain: And! And! And! I loved the people. Sure, they were “flawed”–which you probably reckon is a good thing–but I liked nearly all of them. Especially Jenna, the kid. She was kick-ass.
Sebastian: I agree. Jodi Picoult is a genius at character. I’ve never read any of her books before, but I’m keen to read another after Leaving Time.
Rain: So when I’m reading the book I’m thinking these people deserve their Happily Ever After. Jenna is trying to learn what happened to her mother, who vanished ten years ago when Jenna was three, and she worries she’ll either learn her mother is dead (bad) or her mother is alive and doesn’t want to come back for her (also bad). I’m desperately hoping it’s some third alternative–and I’m betting it is because either is too obvious–but I don’t know if it will be a happy alternative or a sad alternative.
Sebastian: I never saw the ending coming.
Rain: Give me a minute. I’ll get to that. I worried that people view sad endings as somehow more literary and thought, “You can’t do that to these people because they deserve so much better.”
Sebastian: It’s fiction. Even in real life people don’t get what they deserve.
Rain: I think justice is important in fiction. We want to believe life is fair, at least a little bit.
Sebastian: I’m not saying I disagree. So what did you think of the ending.
Rain tears at her hair.
Rain: I hated it! It was clever and unexpected and it even kind of made sense, but when I realised what was going on I almost threw my kindle across the taxi.
Sebastian: But you said it was clever.
Rain: It was clever–the first time anyone did it. Every time after that it’s been a total eye roll. Cheap! Hackneyed! I was gutted when I realised Jodi Picoult was using that old trick again.
Sebastian: I didn’t hate the ending quite as much as you, but I agree it was a let-down.
Sebastian and Rain stare out the window. It starts to snow. (What? I love snow.)
Sebastian: One thing we haven’t talked about is the description. The smell of elephants. The sight of sunlight filtering through their ears, highlighting the wiggly veins. The little things you’d only know if you’d really been there.
Rain: Omg, I loved those! And the author really had been there. She’d travelled to all the places in the book, met elephants, experienced the reserve in Africa where part of the book’s set. I can see her sitting in a jeep scrawling observations in a notebook.
Sebastian: I’m so jealous.
Rain: Write as well and as prolifically as she does and maybe you’ll get to travel to Africa too.
Sebastian: Overall, do you think the good or the bad won?
Rain, dejected: The good. Because Jenna. And elephants.
Sebastian: I think so too.
Sebastian turns to the reader.
Sebastian: Listen to her about the elephants. Elephant protection is a serious issue, and I hope this book is making more people care about it. They’re truly astonishing creatures.
Rain: How hard are you trying not to be jealous right now?
Sebastian: So hard.
Have you read Leaving Time? What did you think? If you haven’t, you really should.
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