Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Book Review of Larger Than Life (Novella) by Jodi Picoult

From Jodi Picoult, #1 New York Times bestselling author of The Storyteller and My Sister’s Keeper, comes a gripping and beautifully written novella, now available exclusively as an eBook. Set in the wilds of Africa, Larger Than Life introduces Alice, the unforgettable character at the center of Picoult’s anticipated new novel, Leaving Time

A researcher studying memory in elephants, Alice is fascinated by the bonds between mother and calf—the mother’s powerful protective instincts and her newborn’s unwavering loyalty. Living on a game reserve in Botswana, Alice is able to view the animals in their natural habitat—while following an important rule: She must only observe and never interfere. Then she finds an orphaned young elephant in the bush and cannot bear to leave the helpless baby behind. Thinking back on her own childhood, and on her shifting relationship with her mother, Alice risks her career to care for the calf. Yet what she comes to understand is the depth of a parent’s love. 

Allow me to first state that, in my opinion, Jodi Picoult is one of the most brilliant contemporary authors of our time. Very rarely can you find an author who is able to create such compelling fiction with the most true-to-life characters, and to top it off, real FACTS and controversial subjects. To read a Jodi Picoult is not only to live it, but to also walk away with new knowledge and an understanding of real-world issues (and, of course, The Feels). This novella is no exception.

Larger Than Life is a sort of lead-in/partial excerpt from Picoult’s upcoming release, Leaving Time – coming out October 14, 2014. It is only available as an eBook, and if I’m being completely honest, it is my first one! But I was definitely not disappointed! If you’ve never read Jodi before, you may consider starting with this short story to get a taste of her brilliance, and I assure you, you will be hooked!

So, basically the story begins with our main character Alice, a scientist studying elephant behaviour in Botswana (Africa), stumbling upon the corpses of five elephants who were killed by poachers. What she notices next is a baby elephant – or calf – hanging on to her dead mother. Alice, whose relationship with her own mother is dysfunctional to say the least, makes the quick decision to rescue the calf by taking her in, against all rules. With the help of a local man named Neo, Alice nurses and cares for the now named Lesego, meaning “Lucky”, until the baby is ready to be reintroduced to the wild. What Alice does not expect are the bonds she forms with both Lesego and Neo as her idea of family, old and new, is tested again and again.

I had quite a range of emotions while reading this story, from awe and compassion to utter shock and despair. Basically, it looked something like this:

And yes, there were tears! Larger Than Life is sad but also very moving. It took me places I didn’t expect, something I think of as the Jodi Effect. The elephants in this story are used to portray the many aspects of family: love, protection, unity, dysfunction, rejection in such a way that is all too relatable. I am always fascinated by the ability of animals to form such unbreakable bonds with humans, a rare thing beautiful in its unexpectedness. It’s a story so real, filled with rich characters –both human and not – and relationships that you forget you’re not just reading about people. I’m only sad that it was so short, HOWEVER, I am very excited to read Leaving Time when it hits shelves next month. The story continues with Alice’s daughter Jenna years later, as she searches for her disappeared mother, Alice’s journals the only thing she has left of her mother.

AHHH, I can hardly wait!

Please go read this and share your thoughts with me! I would love to hear them!

Thanks for reading; peace! :)

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