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10.14.2015

Book Report - "Leaving Time" and "At the Water's Edge"

I read a few more books as part of my 2015 PopSugar Reading Challenge. Jodi Picoult's, Leaving Time, marked off "A book that made you cry" and Sara Gruen's, At the Water's Edge, marked off "A book set in a different country".

First up, was Leaving Time by Jodi Picoult. This was actually the first Jodi Picoult novel I have ever read. If the rest of her works are anything like this one, then there will be lots more Jodi Picoult in my future.
For ten years, Jenna Metcalf has thought of little else but finding her lost mother, Alice, who vanished from the elephant sanctuary where she worked when Jenna was a small child. Refusing to believe her mother is dead or abandoned her, Jenna enlists the assistance of psychic, Serenity Jones, and retired police officer turned private investigator, Virgil Stanhope, to help find Alice. Together, the unlikely trio, retrace the night of the disappearance and revisit old evidence in an attempt to learn the truth of what really happened to Alice that night.

Leaving Time is by far the best contemporary novel I have read in some time. It's unlike any missing person mystery novel I've ever read before. Each chapter is told from a different first person point of view of one of the main characters: Jenna, Serenity, Virgil, and Alice. One of my favorite writing techniques, this type of style really moves the story along quickly; and in this case, made for some excellent character development. We get each characters full story: their current situation, how they got there, and where they're going.

Something I really wasn't expecting, was how informative the novel was about elephants. I learned so much - how they live, how they take care of their young, and especially how they grieve. Those parts alone made for a compelling and moving story. Paralleling the story of the horrors of elephant culling and the effect it has on the surviving elephants with Jenna's grief over the loss of her mother makes for a compelling and moving story that also educates its reader on this inhumane practice of elephant population control.

As if all that weren't enough, Leaving Time has a fantastic ending that took me completely by surprise and elevated what was already a great story to an absolutely amazing story. I highly recommend this book. I'm so glad I read it, and you will be to. Just riveting.

Next up, was At the Water's Edge by Sara Gruen.
After an embarrassing display at a high society New Year's Eve party in 1942, Maddie and Ellis Hyde are cut off financially from Ellis's father. Being unable to serve in WWII, Ellis and his best friend Hank decide to hunt the infamous Loch Ness monster. Having no other choice, Maddie joins them on their journey to Scotland in the midst of war. Each day, Ellis and Hank go monster hunting while Maddie is left alone in a small Scottish inn. As she gets to know the local community, her eyes are opened to the realities of living through war. Maddie grows close to the women at the inn and its quiet, yet strong, proprietor Angus. The more she sees and learns, the more she realizes how terribly spoiled and behaved, she, Ellis, and Hank have been; and is unsure if she can ever go back to the privileged life she once knew.

I was really excited to read At the Water's Edge, as it seemed like it would be right up my alley - a period drama set in Scotland, and they're searching for the Loch Ness Monster! What's not to love? Unfortunately, a lot, as I found At the Water's Edge to be quite the disappointment. It's hard to get behind a novel when you're not rooting for any of the characters. Ellis, Hank, and Maddie were such terrible people through so much of the novel, that when Maddie did start to finally change her ways I just plainly didn't care anymore. The plot was a good in concept, but it just never fully materialized into anything that engaged me as a reader. Definitely a missed opportunity here.

What are you reading these days? Come on, let's talk books.

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