"I wonder, when women who buy beautiful ivory jewelry fasten those elaborate pendants around their throats, if they are choked by sadness." ~ Larger Than Life
You may recall my review of Leaving Time by Jodi Picoult in December where I declared it "the most important novel of the year." The main reason I fell in love with that story was the fact that the author depicted the very real and tragic plight of elephants globally. I could have read about these magnificent creatures all day.
So imagine how thrilled I was when I stumbled upon an e-book exclusive, Larger Than Life, a novella that features Alice, the character behind the action in Leaving Time. In this story, Picoult takes us back to Botswana in 1999 before Alice returns to the U.S. and opens an elephant sanctuary that is at the center of Leaving Time.
Larger Than Life focuses on Alice's research in Africa and a time when she must choose between following a code that states scientists must NOT intervene with nature or face the repercussions that are sure to come if she saves an orphaned baby elephant by becoming its surrogate mother.
Although a work of fiction, the scientific observations are nonfictional and give great insight into the crisis facing elephants today. Using the novella as a vehicle, Picoult outlines the effects illegal poaching and the ivory trade have had on our elephant population. It is also demonstrated how elephants develop post-traumatic stress disorders from witnessing the violence inflicted on their kind. Picoult reminds us of the massive culls in parts of Africa that occurred through the mid- 1990s in efforts to control the elephant population and what long-term effects these have had on the species. In addition, readers also receive an inside peak at the amazing bonds and social system within elephant herds.
"The matriarch is a knot that holds together a rope made of many strings. Cut the rope below the knot, and it unravels." ~ Larger Than Life
While a valuable look at animal conservation, the novella does not fail to provide the reader with a great fictional story line as well. Whether examining the strained relationship Alice has with her own mother or the heartache that comes from forbidden love, readers will be entertained as well as enlightened.
At only one hundred pages, Larger Than Life is a heart-warming read that can easily be finished in one sitting. It is a great accompaniment to Leaving Time, but it can certainly be a stand-alone story as well. Personally, I would love to read more novellas involving Alice and her work in Africa.
What can you do?
Educate yourself on the plight of elephants. Do not support circuses or other industries that use animals as entertainment. Support organizations like The Elephant Sanctuary in Hohenwald, Tennessee by visiting their website at www.elephants.com and Global Sanctuary for Elephants at www.globalelephants.org who need our help to build and operate elephant sanctuaries all over the world.
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