Larger Than Life (Novella Review)

"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 and Global Sanctuary for Elephants at who need our help to build and operate elephant sanctuaries all over the world.

Read more of my Book Reviews.


  1. One could easily feel the passion for this subject in your writing style. Way more elaborate and vibrant than usual. This is not saying that your reviews usually are more dull or lifeless.
    On the contrary. Top notch. Always.
    But this was close to heart for you... Outstanding, yeah.. series of reviews on the subject, combined with 'Leaving time' earlier.
    You've taken the reader right down to the action, the tragedy and the dilemma these magnificent animals are facing in today's grim, mostly profit-oriented, often indifferent world.
    The plight they're facing, the complete disregard for fundamental social stuctures and behavior. This sadly is a parable that shows in marine parks around the world every day. Highly intelligent animals like orcas and pigs, mistreated, abused and killed out of greed and carnivorous impulses.
    Conservationism might be the key factor in a sustainable handling of resources and morals in our times. We can't go on like this, exercising dominance over our fellow creatures and natural habitats like this. There is only one planet Earth. If we as a species go on wrecking it, fast paced like this, we're looking at extinct species, destroyed ecosystems and accelerated climate change all over our planet.
    We owe it to the goodness in our hearts and to future generations to be much more careful in terms of our consumption habits to preserve that magnificent heritage of a natural equilibrium in the wild.
    Outstanding review. Thanks for highlighting this immensely important subject.
    Great job.

    1. Thank you for reading and commenting and, yes, animal conservation as a whole is very important to me and dear to my heart. The way Picoult captures the magnificence of elephants is nothing short of brilliance and one could only imagine their plight is dear to her as well. The fact that she is able to write such important stories under the "guise" of contemporary fiction is commending.

    2. I think this is a mark of great literature. It doesn't lecture the reader. It takes them down to feel the plight, makes them experience and feel it for themselves.
      Simple stating of facts often leads to that same indifference and leaves the reader removed from the subject. Emotional overload is too often counterproductive when you want to make a point. Writing like this, in this fashion, takes them at the heart. At the core of their fundamental beliefs and perceptions.
      I might actually go and buy that book.

    3. Yes, Picoult does a wonderful job of connecting the reader to the elephants without lecturing. Pure heart and soul. Larger Than Life is available as e-book only. Enjoy!


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