Could love be not grand gestures or empty vows, not promises meant to be broken, but instead a paper trail of forgiveness? A line of crumbs made of memories, to lead you back to the person who was waiting?
Author: Jodi Picoult
# of Pages: 398
Published: October 14, 2014
For more than a decade, Jenna Metcalf has never stopped thinking about her mother, Alice, who mysteriously disappeared in the wake of a tragic accident. Refusing to believe that she would be abandoned as a young child, Jenna searches for her mother regularly online and pores over the pages of Alice’s old journals. A scientist who studied grief among elephants, Alice wrote mostly of her research among the animals she loved, yet Jenna hopes the entries will provide a clue to her mother’s whereabouts.
Desperate to find the truth, Jenna enlists two unlikely allies in her quest. The first is Serenity Jones, a psychic who rose to fame finding missing persons—only to later doubt her gifts. The second is Virgil Stanhope, a jaded private detective who originally investigated Alice’s case along with the strange, possibly linked death of one of her colleagues. As the three work together to uncover what happened to Alice, they realize that in asking hard questions, they’ll have to face even harder answers.
As Jenna’s memories dovetail with the events in her mother’s journals, the story races to a mesmerizing finish. [Goodreads]
I have been highly anticipating this novel. I bought an e-reader, so I could read the prequel. I went to a meet-and-green with Jodi. I have a signed copy of the book. But I have to admit that it is not my new favorite. I just didn’t love it. Being an avid Picoult reader, I love how she never fails to deliver a twist ending and I must say that this one really threw me for a loop.
What I liked:
I found the incorporation of elephants to be a refreshing addition to the story. It was packed full of facts that I thought were very interesting. I don’t want to give too much away, but a couple of my favorites facts are that elephants hold grudges and have trunks that stretch like accordions.
The relationship between Thomas and Alice in the beginning. Thomas was so nerdy and cute with his glasses fogging up when he came to Africa for the first time; plus his adorable little trick with the origami elephant. “It was almost as if there was a tear in the fabric I was made of, and he was the only color thread that would match to stitch it back up.”
The twist ending was completely out of the blue… well at least for me. I won’t give it away. I will say that I don’t think it was one of her most creative plot twists, but it was definitely one that I didn’t see coming. I always try to figure out where she is headed, but for some reason what she picked never crossed my mind. Which was a nice surprise.
Jenna and Virgil’s friendship was really genuine to me. There is just something about a washed up, old detective and a preteen hanging out and having some good laughs that is just so sweet. I love weird, unexpected friendships and this one had moments that really made me smile. As the story progressed, I really liked how he became protective over her, like the father figure she never had.
What I disliked:
The characters in general were not very likable. There is a preteen, a psychic, and an ex-detective. Yep, I know, a bit cliche. Then add the missing mother and crazy father who both happen to be scientists, and throw in the extended family consisting of the three others who work with elephants. Jenna– I felt for her wanting to find her mom and everything, but I thought her character was a bit far-fetched. She was thirteen years old, but came across more like eighteen. She just seemed to be a bit too mature and was just way too street smart and book smart to be taken seriously. Serenity– I am not one for psychic stories, but I liked her the most from the beginning. I felt she had the most character development and I could really see her story being real (minus the actually believing in psychic things). I found her to be funny, confident, and maybe I’m biased, because she drove a yellow VW bug and I am obsessed with those. Virgil– I don’t care much for drunk characters, but I thought it was a bit lazy to create a character with the alcoholic ex-detective stigma. He was just too easy and not very original. Alice– the mother; I thought she was great in the prequel and in her younger years having so much attitude and spunk, but I started to dislike her as the story progressed. Thomas– I liked him in the beginning and I never actually came to a point where I hated him, but I felt he was doomed from the start. He was extremely smart, had a mental disorder, his disorder causes him to have an abusive lapse, and then ends up being cheated on. “A bruise is how the body remembers it’s been wronged.” Poor guy. I would crack too.
Infidelity is not something I necessarily like to read about. I understand that not all relationships are perfect, but even when things get tough, I don’t think it is ok to just peace out and find the next best thing. Or not peace out and just do in secret. The relationships were pretty messed up in this story and I partially blame Alice for this; she didn’t really seem to understand what marriage means. It seemed to me like she gave up too easily.
The storyline is really quite confusing. It was so full of theories and subplots that I just found it to be really hard to follow at times. Once I made it past the halfway mark, it started to pick up speed and make more sense. But then you hit the last fourth of the book and the twists start coming out and the confusion comes back.
What I thought overall:
It was a good novel, but not a Picoult masterpiece. If you want to learn a little about an amazing animal, while reading an interesting book about a young girl searching for her long lost mom… then I would definitely look into it. It provides some great laughs, lots of interesting facts, and a few smiley/teary moments. Was this my new favorite Jodi Picoult novel? No. Will I read her next book? Yes. Do I recommend reading it? Yes (specifically for avid Picoult readers).