A Spark of Lightby Published 02 Oct 2018
|A Spark of Light.pdf|
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.
"A Spark of Light" Reviews
She wondered if the only way any of us can find what we stand for is by first locating what we stand against.
I got a really pleasant surprise a couple of years ago when I picked up Small Great Things on a whim and discovered that Picoult is actually much more vicious and hard-hitting than I'd expected. Her covers look like chick-lit, but it seems she takes very current, often controversial, topics and examines them through the eyes of complex and relatable characters.
However, I think this book doesn't quite hit the emotions it's aiming for. The novel is so focused on the issue and providing lots of information that it often becomes a dry and dispassionate read. At times, A Spark of Light reads almost like an "Abortion Myths Dispelled" pamphlet. I still want to give it three stars for what I'm tempted to call an important or even necessary read, but I don't think it dives much deeper than the surface.
Picoult tells the story of a gunman barging into Missisippi's only abortion clinic and taking the doctors and patients hostage. We soon discover that the shooter is a man called George whose daughter recently had an abortion. The story takes place over a single day and is told in reverse, moving through the perspectives of many characters who all have different circumstances and agendas.
Picoult's characters are quick to point out inaccuracies in the arguments of anti-choice protestors but, overall, the perspectives are relatively balanced. There are no monsters on either side and the author carefully explores why each individual believes what they believe.
Dr. Louie Ward (based on real-life abortion provider, Dr. Willie Parker) is a Christian who offers abortions because he believes it is his religious duty to offer compassion instead of judgement to women; Joy is at the clinic because she just had an abortion; young Wren is seeking contraception; Janine is an anti-abortion activist who is there to infiltrate the clinic. This is just a sample of the characters. Outside, the hostage negotiator in charge is Wren's dad, and elsewhere a girl called Beth faces murder charges for illegally terminating her own pregnancy. The characters are diverse in race, wealth, and sexuality.
Lots of viewpoints are covered, as are the laws that make Mississippi the most restrictive state on abortion. The dialogue and internal monologues of the characters feel somewhat didactic, though perhaps that was unavoidable. Many conversations exist to educate the reader on the realities, laws and myths of abortion, and honestly it feels like it. Though the characters' situations all seem likely to evoke sympathy, the book itself is too lesson-driven to offer much in the way of emotional attachment.
The unusual timeline of the novel also didn't really work for me. I'm not sure I understand it's purpose. By beginning at the end, we know most of what will happen, and the few details intended to surprise us are not actually that surprising.
It's undeniably an informative and well-researched book on a hot topic, going so far as to consider the relationship between abortion politics and race politics. It's unfortunate that, though interesting, the book seemed to hold me at a distance from the characters-- perhaps the author's decision to try to equally portray such opposing viewpoints made it impossible to ever really get close to either one.
If you do read the book, be sure to read the author's note. Some of the best conclusions on the abortion argument are in it.
CW: Racism; abortion; gun violence; mentions of rape and incest.
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As soon as I see that a new Jodi Picoult book is going to be released, I can't wait to read it. But as much as I wanted to drag out this novel and make it last, I couldn’t stop reading. I had to find out how it all began…and how it all came together in the end. This novel is written in a way I wasn’t sure I would like. But I actually really enjoyed how the story was told. The book begins at five pm and moves backward in time with each chapter one hour earlier than the previous chapter.
“The Center” was formerly known as The Center for Women and Reproductive Health. Due to the restrictions designed to make these centers disappear, The Center is now the last clinic of its kind in Mississippi. Though it’s been through many battles the fluorescent orange building is still standing, offering services and support to those who come through its doors. It is a safe space…until the day a distraught and desperate man barges into the building, opens fire, and takes everyone inside hostage.
We learn the stories and hear from a variety of people inside The Center. What brought these people together on this fateful day?
Fifteen-year-old Wren doesn’t think today is a good day to die.
Hugh McElroy is a hostage negotiator and has dealt with all types of hostage takers. Some are drunk or high, some are on a political mission, and some are depressed and determined to take others with them. But this hostage situation is very different. In fact, Hugh should have stepped down and let someone else take over.
Dr. Louie Ward is a fifty-four-year-old ob-gyn. He decided to become an ob-gyn, in honor of his mother. Dr. Ward attended mass faithfully but also became an abortion provider. He wanted women to feel that they were not alone. He knows the protestors don’t realize just how many people they know have actually visited places like The Center ……” Wipe away the stigma and all you were left with was your neighbour, your teacher, your grocery clerk, your landlady.”
George Goddard knew he hadn’t been the best husband, but he was determined he would be the best father possible. “It was why, this morning, he had driven all this way to The Center, the last standing abortion clinic in the state of Mississippi”.
Three hours away in another part of Mississippi is seventeen year old, Beth. She is terrified and alone and has just found out that she’s being accused of a horrible crime.
Those are just a few of the characters we meet in this story. Just like in real life, we have people with many different views. I thought the characters were well-developed, their stories intriguing and heart-breaking. They are all very different yet have more in common than they would have ever thought possible.
As I mentioned earlier, the way this story is told is a bit different. But in the end, I thought it was the perfect way to tell this story. I’m sure this novel will spark debates and there will be a variety of opinions. I understand it may not be for everyone. Regardless of opinion, I feel that many people will still find this book interesting and thought-provoking.
I have been reading Jodi Picoult’s books for years. Her books bring important issues to the forefront, using ordinary people’s stories. In my opinion, “A Spark of Light” is another incredible and unique novel. This story will stay with me for a very long time.
“It stood to reason that both life and death began with a spark of light”
I'd like to thank Ballantine Books for providing me with an advanced copy of this novel.
Author Jodi Picoult is no stranger to controversy, and it seems somehow fitting that she should tackle the contentious issue of a woman's right to abortion in this, her latest offering. Set in a women's reproductive health services clinic, now becoming a rare commodity, the story kick starts with a bang with a desperate gunman shooting at those within the clinic and holding them hostage. The narrative then proceeds to go back in time to the start of the day for the wide cast of characters present and the multiple reasons for their presence at the clinic. This includes clinic staff, pro life people, the desperate gunman's tale, and clinic clients. Outside, Hugh McElroy is the police hostage negotiator, alarmed to discover his 15 year old daughter, Wren, is inside the clinic with her aunt, his sister.
Picoult takes an incredibly balanced approach, showcasing her impressive research skills on this incendiary topic of reproductive rights. She presents the science, the legal, religious, cultural norms, state differences, national and international angles, not to mention the issue of race, making this a novel that is thought provoking and prime material for book club discussions. She captures the intensity of the feelings people have on the topic, both pro life and those who uphold a woman's right to choose, exposing the misinformation peddled in the arguments. This is a story with plenty of tension and suspense, and the unexpected, which I found both gripping and timely, given what is happening in the world today. As such, this is a novel that I recommend highly. Many thanks to Hodder and Stoughton for an ARC.
Narrated by Bahni Turpin, and Jodi Picoult
Favorite line: from Jodi Picoult...( reading this part herself), in the author’s notes:
“Laws are black and white;
lives of women are shades of gray”.
I also agree with this statement:
“I don’t think we, as a society will ever see eye to eye on each other’s point of views....
but it’s important to have conversations and talk with each other”.
My reasons for only 2 stars:
.... I didn’t think much of the storytelling of
this topic. It felt cold and controlled to me....even manipulative... too crafted.. lacking sincere emotional connection with the characters that
we should have been caring about.
I had reserved this Audiobook from the library and I received it the day it was first released. I knew I wasn’t highly excited to read it: more curious. I never requested an advance copy from
Netgalley- because I suspected this entire topic would feel like a no-win satisfying experience. I was hoping to be wrong. I wasn’t. ( for me).
I’m a female who isn’t
blind to what’s going on regarding this issue. I listen to the news. I’ve had many conversations about women’s choices - the government- etc. I know many women who have had abortions. I haven’t.... but had I been raped, or too poor, or too young, I would have.
I didn’t have the stomach for this book.... neither the drama or the parts that dragged.
I wasn’t a fan of the writing.
At times descriptions felt pretentious. Other times childish.
I especially didn’t feel this book worked
as an audiobook.
I’m not a fan of books - or a fan of myself, when I ‘press on’....while my inner voice isn’t peaceful - in partnership with the author’s purpose. I had too many debates in my own head about a fiction book on this issue.
I wasn’t feeling
aligned with the storyline.
I’m not blaming Jodi,
I’ve enjoyed at least 3 or 4 of her other books...
but I didn’t enjoy this novel enough to recommend it.
My inner voice was too critical throughout.
The most important part of this book is found in the Author’s notes: ‘factual’ statistics.... which anyone could read in 10 minutes while they’re in a bookstore or library.
I’m guessing I’m a rare bird - read other reviews-
Other readers may have found this book extraordinary and powerful. You may too!
Honestly... I’m so glad I’ve finished this one.
I tried to like this book, I really did, but I found it to be preachy and boring as batshit. I kept finding excuses to put it down and not get back to it, which is unlike me. The reverse chronology of the chapters I found to be disjointed and annoying, and because of this I couldn't connect with any of the characters. And a graphic abortion scene? I mean really? Does anybody need to read that? I know this is Jodi Picoult and it will probably be a mega seller, but it just didn't do it for me.
My thanks to Allen & Unwin for an uncorrected proof to read and review. The opinions are entirely my own.