A Spark of Light by Jodi Picoult
Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton
Publishing Date: 30th October 2018
Source: Received from the publisher, thank you!
Number of pages: 400
Genre: General Fiction (Adult)
(out on 13.06.2019)
The warm fall day starts like any other at the Center—a women’s reproductive health services clinic—its staff offering care to anyone who passes through its doors. Then, in late morning, a desperate and distraught gunman bursts in and opens fire, taking all inside hostage.
After rushing to the scene, Hugh McElroy, a police hostage negotiator, sets up a perimeter and begins making a plan to communicate with the gunman. As his phone vibrates with incoming text messages he glances at it and, to his horror, finds out that his fifteen-year-old daughter, Wren, is inside the clinic.
But Wren is not alone. She will share the next and tensest few hours of her young life with a cast of unforgettable characters: A nurse who calms her own panic in order save the life of a wounded woman. A doctor who does his work not in spite of his faith but because of it, and who will find that faith tested as never before. A pro-life protester disguised as a patient, who now stands in the cross hairs of the same rage she herself has felt. A young woman who has come to terminate her pregnancy. And the disturbed individual himself, vowing to be heard.
Told in a daring and enthralling narrative structure that counts backward through the hours of the standoff, this is a story that traces its way back to what brought each of these very different individuals to the same place on this fateful day.
Jodi Picoult—one of the most fearless writers of our time—tackles a complicated issue in this gripping and nuanced novel. How do we balance the rights of pregnant women with the rights of the unborn they carry? What does it mean to be a good parent? A Spark of Light will inspire debate, conversation . . . and, hopefully, understanding.
It’s a confession time. I haven’t read a Jodi Picoult book before. So there, I’ve told this. I’ve heard of this author, oh my god, of course I’ve heard about her, and I have her novels at home but I haven’t read them yet. However, when “A Spark of Light” arrived as a surprise with a post, I almost immediately started reading it – it was the right time for this book and for this author.
This being a surprise book, I didn’t know what it’s going to be about. I know that Jodi Picoult is not afraid of controversial topics, and I also know that her books are clever, thought – provoking and challenging. I hope it’s not a spoiler when I’ll say that “A Spark of Light” is about abortion. It is a very hot topic, abortion, not only in the USA but also in Europe and probably all over the world, and everybody has their own opinion – me too. And hats off to Ms Picoult for deciding on writing this novel, for touching upon this subject and for doing it in the most perfect, as neutral as possible way ever. As I’ve mentioned, I have my own feelings about abortion that I’m not going to change, no matter what, but you won’t be pushed or asked to make a choice, to be Pro – Life or Pro – Choice and it is really worth appreciation. Jodi Picoult compassionately describes the thoughts of both sides, without taking sides, this of Pro – Life or Pro – Choice, giving us the chance to understand both of them. But I also think that this is not the point of the book, to convince us to one of the sides, but to offer us multiple points, to show us that things are not only white or black but also grey. We don’t have to agree but we should respect them.
In “A Spark of Light” Jodi Picoult tells the story of a desperate gunman, barging into Mississippi’s abortion clinic and taking its patients and staff hostage. As it quickly turns out, his daughter recently had an abortion and George is seeking revenge. Told in reverse and through multiple points of view, it tells us the stories of the characters, unveiling the fact what they’re were in the clinic for.
And what didn’t work for me in this book was the fact that it was told in reverse. For me it would work much better told chronologically, as, to be completely honest, knowing what has happened caused that the tension was not there and I had a feeling that I could skip on some information/passages without losing anything. The piecing together of some aspects and subplots was too easy and it would be more impactful when told differently. But that’s me.
There were plenty of characters in this book and yes, I admit, at the beginning it was not easy to keep up with them all. But their development, the way they were described, were incredibly compelling. They were all so different, they all had different life experience but fate brought them all together. There is Dr. Louie Ward who offers abortions because no matter what he believes in, he also believes it is his duty to offer women a chance, a way out; Joy, who’s at the clinic for abortion; Wren who came to the clinic with her aunt, seeking contraception; Janice, a Pro – Lifer who’s in the clinic under disguise, looking for confirmation that what they do there is as bad as others describe; Wren’s dad, who finds himself outside, negotiating with George setting the hostages free; Beth, who’s right now facing murder charges for illegally terminating her pregnancy. They, and many, many more will stay with you for long – it is impossible to forget them and about them. As you see, many points of view but all of them worth getting to know and to consider.
It was a special, important and powerful read. Jodi Picoult doesn’t play safe – she examines, and pokes and brutally honest tells us how it really is, and she always stays professional. She’s informative and always fair and yes, sometimes controversial and thought – provoking but I guess this is the point of this book. It will provoke discussions, I am sure about it, and you just won’t be able to walking away from this book indifferently. Thank you, Jodi Picoult, for writing this book!