Jenna knows that her mother disappeared years ago from an elephant sanctuary where her parents both worked. One of the employees was trampled to death by an elephant one night, and her mother was found unconscious nearby. She was brought to hospital but checked herself out and was gone before morning. No one knew what had happened that fateful night, or why her mother left without taking her or telling anyone where she went.
Picoult’s popular bestsellers are well researched, engagingly plotted, a bit formulaic and cliché, but always entertaining. This time she has done something different. Her usual formula is to take an issue and explore all of the various angles of it through the eyes of different characters. Only this time it’s not an issue, it’s a mystery. And the research and information is all about elephants, so if you are not into pachyderms, you might want to take a pass. One of the characters is a psychic so the element of communicating with the dead is added to the story as well. This makes for a pairing of two unlikely subjects (paranormal activity and elephant behaviour), but Picoult pulls it off. The book has numerous twists and turns and will keep you guessing to the very end.
I must admit to having a soft spot for elephants. We were blessed by living in close proximity to them for years in Tanzania and had many opportunities to observe them and many stories to tell of encounters with them. One weekend get-away destination for our family was a tented camp where elephants would often graze around our tents or visit us by the poolside. Once while lounging on a sunbed, I heard our youngest who was a toddler then, utter a new word for her: “tembo” (Swahili for elephant). When I looked up, sure enough, there she stood gazing at the magnificent animal before her.
The paranormal and elephant behaviour are not normally subjects paired together, but oddly they did coincide for me once before, and it makes for a very funny story I cannot resist to tell. My sister, who was at that time working for a parapsychology institute in Holland, had found me a homeopath to consult since I was struggling with a health issue. This healer wanted to determine what my “spirit animal” was, so that I could think about that and get well from the understanding it would give me. Well, from the consultation I learned that my spirit animal was a matriarchal elephant which was hilarious considering my health issue was chronic sinusitis!
Picoult is passionate about the plight of elephant populations worldwide. Elephants are in danger of extinction because of the value of ivory in the marketplace. She is hoping that the support of books such as hers and protection organizations that she endorses, will make a difference.