A Spark of Light – Jodi Picoult

Published By: Hodder & Stoughton
Pages: 355
Date Released: 30/10/2018

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 to 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 protestor 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 backwards 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.

*****

When you fall in love with a writer, you can’t get enough of their stories. I own 21 of Jodi Picoult’s books, and I devoured A Spark of Light from cover to cover in less than nine hours; I just couldn’t put it down.

I just love how Picoult takes very real, very tough storylines and makes them real and accessible, and entertaining. Like organ donation in My Sister’s Keeper, or a high-school shooting in Nineteen Minutes. These are tough topics that aren’t usually the subject of an entertaining fictional novel, but Picoult manages to write them in such a way that doesn’t hide their harshness but makes them fascinating to read.

The topic of abortion and pro-life vs. pro-choice is an argument that doesn’t look to be resolved any time soon. This book shows the fine balance between the rights of the pregnant woman with the rights of the unborn they carry. This is probably the most debatable topic Picoult has written about – in my opinion – and generally, it is hard for someone on one side of the argument to understand the opinions of someone the other side.

Picoult is never preachy with these topics. She is sensitive and clearly has a proven understanding of the topics; enough to make you really think about what you would do in this situation. She has created a world of characters that are all believable in their own way and all have their own genuine reasons to be where they are. In the wrong place at the wrong time.

When I started reading it, I didn’t realise it was written in anti-chronological order. And I didn’t know that was a narrative style I needed until then. Instead of building up to the action, she goes straight in with the gunman, shocking the reader – much like the people in the clinic are shocked when they see him. It means we spend the rest of the book trying to unpick everyone’s storylines, leaving us eager to get to the resolution at the end. I think it’s perfect writing style for this topic.

I will continue to add to my Picoult collection for as long as she continues to write them.

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