BLURB: “Jenna Metcalf was with her mother the night she disappeared, but she remembers nothing. In the wake of those tragic events, she has lost not one parent, but two; her father is in an asylum, and she now lives with her grandmother – who finds it too painful to talk about what happened. Ten years on, Jenna is the only one who still seems to care. And she is determined to seek the truth, no matter how shocking and life-changing it might be…”
REVIEW: This is my favourite novel of Picoult’s that I have read since ‘Nineteen Minutes’, which I think will always hold the top spot for me and which I named my top book of the year last year, despite heavy competition. As with all Picoult’s novels, the twist at the end of the book makes it difficult to review without giving too much away, but I can assure you that this twist is one of Picoult’s finest – it truly shocked me and I didn’t see it coming despite having been gripped for the entire novel, trying as desperately as the protagonist to find out what happened to her mother. Jenna’s mother worked at an elephant sanctuary and dedicated her life to studying and caring for these animals; Picoult’s research into elephant behaviour is meticulous, and gives the reader a great deal of factual knowledge as well as allowing us to become as fond of the elephants as Jenna’s mother, Alice, was. One night at the sanctuary, the body of another employee was found trampled by an elephant, and further off was found the unconscious Alice. After being treated in hospital, she discharged herself – and was never seen again. Jenna has subsequently spent the rest of her life trying to find out what happened to her mother, and fears that her mother may have abandoned her for good, or died herself. Receiving little help from her traumatised grandmother, Jenna turns to ex-detective Virgil Stanhope; once the lead detective on the Alice Metcalf case, Virgil is tortured by the fact that it remains unsolved and has turned to drink, but reluctantly agrees to help Jenna and develops a bond with her. They also receive help from the disgraced psychic Serenity who, once a famous celebrity, was slaughtered by press and public alike after several failed readings that gave many false hope of finding those they loved. Yet Serenity senses something special in Jenna, and together the three of them embark on a journey to find the truth about what happened at the sanctuary that night. Picoult, an expert at weaving stories through multiple narratives, tells this tale through the eyes of Jenna, Serenity and Virgil, and through the eyes of Alice herself, who tells us the story right from the beginning – before Jenna was even born. This is a fascinating novel that I simply could not put down, and I would very highly recommend it.