In this story of a teen searching for her missing mother, Picoult manages to combine elephants, a psychic, the spirit world, and grief and loss into a phenomenal emotional narrative. As usual she introduces multiple characters and each chapter is written from differing viewpoints.
Leaving time is set partially at a New England elephant sanctuary and also in Africa where wild herds roam. As the book opens, thirteen year old Jenna Metcalf is searching for her mother, Alice, an elephant researcher who disappeared 10 years earlier after a tragic accident at the sanctuary. Her father has been in a psychiatric hospital since the incident. Jenna reads journals her mother kept in the hopes of finding clues to her disappearance. She enlists the help of Serenity Jones, a disgraced psychic, and Virgil Stanhope, a hard-drinking detective in her search.
The story is well told, funny, and the wonderful twist at the end is one I won't soon forget. I also love elephants, which really added to my enjoyment of the book, and I'm so glad that Picoult will shine some much needed attention on the plight of elephants and raise awareness of the cognitive and emotional intelligence of these beautiful animals.