A Spark of Light by Jodi Picoult
Publication date: 2nd of October
Thank you so much to Netgalley and the publisher for providing me a copy in exchange for an honest review.
I don’t usually include trigger warnings, but now I definitely will. The book is graphic and can be upsetting, it includes descriptions of abortions, gun violence and death.
The Centre is the only place in Mississippi that provides abortions. It is also the place where the views of anti-choice and pro-choice individuals collide; the pro-life protesters surround the entrance of the Centre everyday and the women who need to go in have to brave through the flock of people trying desperately to turn them around. But that is everyday life, and regardless of it, no one expected that George Goddart would burst in one day, open fire and take everyone inside a hostage.
Hugh McElroy is a hostage negotiator and consequently, he rushes to the scene to contact the shooter and make sense of the situation. His focus is shattered, however, when he receives a text from his fifteen-year-old daughter, Wren, from inside the clinic.
A Spark of Light is the first book I have read by Jodi Picoult, and I am definitely persuaded to dive into her other books as well. The novel is beautifully crafted and the writing flows. We follow a range of different perspectives from people inside and outside the clinic who are all somehow tangled up in the situation. Although we get loads of perspectives, the characters are widely different from each other and I never stumbled in remembering everyones’ situation. Some of the characters who’s motivations we get to follow include a woman who has come in for an abortion, a woman who is an anti-choice spy convinced that the Centre is forcing abortions on women, the doctor who performs the abortions and the shooter himself. All of the characters are different from each other with a complex set of motivations and logical thinking behind their beliefs.
My favourite thing about A Spark of Light was how thought out everything was. We are given a complete picture of the debate between pro-choice and pro-life advocates. The book is not unbiased but the opinions are presented in a clear and logical way and they include both sides of the debate. Although the novel tackles a controversial, difficult issue, the flow of the story itself is never interrupted.
When you say you can’t do something because your religion forbids it, that’s a good thing. When you say I can’t do something because your religion forbids it, that’s a problem.
As an individual with a strong pro-choice view, I found A Spark of Light an enjoyable but also an extremely educating read. In the past, I have tried to understand the argument of anti-choice advocates but the books and the articles that I have found on the topic have been fanatic rather than compassionate. In contrast, A Spark of Light provides a set of throughly logical explanations for why someone would be anti-choice. And I finally understood.
Another favourite quote:
Even if you placed moral value on that fetus, you couldn’t give it rights unless they were stripped away from the woman carrying it. Perhaps the question wasn’t ‘when does a fetus become a person?’ but ‘when does a woman stop being one?’
The author has done an extremely brave choice of telling the story in reverse. Therefore, the reader is allowed a glimpse of the late events in the hostage situation and then, the narrative starts to move backwards hour by hour to show us what has led up to this situation. The reverse telling felt very unusual and I was definitely intrigued by the choice, but personally it didn’t work very well for me in the end. Because the story is in reverse, the hostage situation has a lot less thrill to it because we somewhat know what will happen, who will get hurt and who won’t live. The reverse timeline also makes the story progress a lot slower than it would if the timeline was chronological. We get loads of action to start with while the ending is filled up by contemplation and introductions.
Even though I wasn’t the biggest fan of the reverse timescale, it did have its advantages. One of those was that I was very motivated to learn about the characters when the story started with a bang (literally). In addition, the reverse timescale meant that I wasn’t desperate to find out what happens next and so I could slowly savour the debate surrounding abortion and the characters’ motivations for their views.
Even though the novel progressed slowly, and I was slightly annoyed everytime the timeline moved back another hour, A Spark of Light was still a very good book. I really enjoyed it and I found myself thinking back on the arguments days after I had finished reading it. I liked the characters, but I wish the book had placed more equal emphasis on all of them, because I found the main characters, Wren and Hugh, to be the most uninteresting of the bunch.
Are you planning to read A Spark of Light? Have you read anything else by Jodi Picoult before?
I would love some recommendations on which one of her books to pick up next!
Any other releases that you can’t wait to get your hands on?
Thank you so much for reading!