Leaving Time by Jodi Picoult (2014)

How far would a teenage girl go to find out more about a terrible series of crimes that tore apart her family ten years prior? If that girl is Jenna Metcalf, the answer is very far indeed. At thirteen, Jenna has lived with the knowledge that a violent — but unexplained — tragedy led to a woman named Nevvie’s death: sent her father to a psychiatric hospital: and resulted in her mother disappearing without a trace.

Fed up with incomplete answers from her grandmother, and too young to demand much from the local police, Jenna decides she will take the search for her mother into her own hands. She does this by hiring two unlikely people to help her: a formerly famous but recently washed-up psychic named Serenity, and a down-on-his-luck PI named Virgil, who happens to be one of the police detectives who failed to solve Nevvie’s murder and mystery of her mother’s disappearance ten years before.

Both Virgil and Serenity try to refuse Jenna’s request for their help, they are both convinced that either Jenna’s mother is dead or she decided years ago to leave behind her daughter to start over…both options they feel will crush Jenna if revealed. Soon it becomes clear that some greater forces are at work and within hours of forming a team, the three find crucial pieces of evidence that re-open the case.

Following the few threads of physical evidence they manage to find, answers start to trickle in and slowly the three begin to believe that just maybe they might be able to find out what really happened all those years ago. Despite their initial belief that Serenity was a fraud, her intuitions begins to reveal information that would never have come to light otherwise and Virgil and Jenna reluctantly accept that Serenity’s psychic gifts are the key to solving the case.

Each of the three main characters take turns narrating the story for readers, giving insights into just how much all of them doubt that they will succeed but how none of them are willing to give up completely. From Jenna, we get a tough, street-smart girl whose determination fuels the search. From Serenity, we see a washed up physic who has lost faith in herself but who must admit this young girl and her quest for answers is stirring up some of her former powers. Finally, we hear from Virgil, who despite years of battling his personal demons and his sense of failure at having never solved this case, his detective instincts are still in top form and his contacts are critical in getting them answers. This unlikely trio does what a team of police officers was unable to do ten years ago, find out what led to the murder.

There is also a fourth narrator, Jenna’s missing mother Alice Metcalf, who appears first in the pages of the journals she left behind, but becomes more and more of a real character as the book continues. Through her reelections of the months and days leading up to the murder, readers learn critical details that will — eventually — give Jenna the closure she needs.

An enjoyable read and, never fear, it contains one of Jodi Picoult’s signature twist endings.


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