Title/Author: A Spark of Light by Jodi Picoult
Publisher: Ballantine Books
In a nutshell (Publisher):
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.
My verdict: You won’t look at abortion the same way again.
A shooting had occurred at the Center, a women’s reproductive health services clinic, in Mississippi. Nurses, patients and a doctor were held hostage. The event took place on one single day and was told in reverse.
George Goddard was the gunman who believed that this clinic had helped his daughter with her abortion, and he had come here to seek revenge. The police had been alerted. Hugh McElroy was the hostage negotiator called to the scene. However, his experience didn’t prepare him for this – his daughter was one of the hostages. He was desperate. But he needed to stay calm. He was conflicted. He was supposed to step down, but he didn’t.
So who were the hostages at The Center?
Fifteen-year-old Wren, Hugh’s daughter. She was there with Bex, her aunt, to get a contraceptive pill without her dad’s knowledge, now regretting her decision; Joy, had unprotected consensual sex and didn’t want the baby; Janine, a pro-life activist, was in The Center as a spy; Olive, a lesbian professor had cervical cancer and was there to get a second opinion; Izzy, a nurse who thought her boyfriend would end their relationship if he’d known she was pregnant, and Dr Louie Ward (based on real-life abortion provider, Dr. Willie Parker), a religious Catholic man who believed “his religion means he has to act on behalf of others instead of judging them.”
Outside of the Center, there was Beth, a 17-year-old teenager who was 16 weeks pregnant, was at a hospital for severe bleeding after taking some abortion pills she bought online.
In the beginning I was trying to grasp and understand why Picoult had chosen to write this story in reverse. It’s only after delving a little further into the book, that I understood that by keeping the ending out of the way, the stories of those individuals became the focus of the novel. It made me empathize with them more, and made this novel even more compelling.
But that’s not to say that Picoult didn’t weave in any surprises or questions that needed answering, which kept me turning the pages. Bex’s and Janine’s story really caught me by surprise. It just made me want to read the book again!
‘A Spark of Light’ was well-researched and written with a lot of compassion. Picoult wrote without judgement; she wrote fearlessly, with empathy, without bias and she held nothing back. I found some parts very graphic, but necessary – like when Beth was in the bathroom after taking the abortion pills and when Dr. Louie performed the abortions. Nobody wants to be put through this, and making a decision such as this isn’t easy for anybody, so why punish them?
The story boiled down to these questions: Do their decisions to terminate their pregnancies make them bad people? Or are they just good people making bad decisions? Do they deserved to be chastised, discriminated and punished? Don’t they have as much rights as the fetus? What if they’re someone you love and/or know?
This book would make you feel uncomfortable, challenged and provoked. It’d make you want to reconsider your beliefs on right and wrong, well me at least. This book urged readers to empathize. I was 100% pro-life until I was reminded of this:“Wipe away the stigma and all you were left with was your neighbor, your teacher, your grocery clerk, your landlady.” And yes, I once knew of someone very close, who had had to go through abortion because the family couldn’t afford another child. And she was one of the kindest, most giving and generous person I had ever known, and one whom I love dearly.
The ‘Author’s Note’ was very powerful too and it got me teary eyed. It went to show how much research and heart had gone into this book – from interviewing those who are pro-life and pro-choice, to shadowing Dr. Willie Parker (a character Dr. Louie was based on) as he performed abortions, and observing abortion procedures.
Also in case you were wondering, the title came from this line in the book, “It stood to reason that both life and death began with a spark of light“. There was a part where Dr. Louie explained the experiment and finding. So I googled and found this. I’ve included here the video from that link.
I want to end this review with this quote from the ‘Author’s Note’ which Picoult quoted from Dr. Parker: ‘While pro-life protesters are protecting the rights of the fetus, who is protecting the rights of the women?’
And my favorite quote from the book: “Laws are black and white. The lives of women are a thousand shades of gray.”
Now I’m excited to read the eARC of her latest book, ‘The Book of Two Ways’, which was approved on NetGalley. Woot Woot!
Have you read this book? What did you think? If you haven’t, do you intend to? Please share with me your thoughts!
Till then happy reading and stay safe!