Jodi Picoult, as many of you know, is one of my favorite authors of all time. I’m not sure which of her books I read first- The Pact or Nineteen Minutes– but since then, I’ve hungrily read everything by her that I could get my hands on. So when Goodreads notified me that the author I was following (Picoult) was hosting a giveaway*, I immediately entered my name and address and hoped that I could be one lucky winner out of over 8700 to get an advance reader copy of A Spark of Light. Miracles of miracles, I WON! Even more surprising, it shipped within a week, and therefore it quickly jumped to the front of my reading list.
In her traditional style, Picoult tackles the current (or should I say continuous?) controversy that is abortion from multiple points of view. However, this novel’s format is a little different than her norm. In A Spark of Light, the plot is revealed in reverse chronological order, going back in time throughout the course of the day. Also breaking stylistic Picoult, each character gets their own prose section within a chapter, instead of their own chapter. These stylistic changes took me some time to get used to, but I think it worked really well for the novel in helping slow the very fast-paced plot. At times, the information is a little redundant, but Picoult has used this method to slowly peel back layer upon layer of details that aid in character and conflict development.
The novel starts out at 5pm in the only abortion clinic in the state of Mississippi. There is an active shooter holding hostages, and Hugh McElroy is there to negotiate with the shooter to try and save as many lives as possible. The shooter, George, has stormed the clinic for revenge for his daughter, a woman who recently had an abortion. Then there’s Wren, who at age 15 just wanted to get a prescription for birth control from a inconspicuous location so that her father wouldn’t find out, with the aid of her aunt, Bex. Also in the hostage situation lies a woman who is pro-life, a woman who is pro-choice, and the doctor who performs the abortion surgeries. In a semi-parallel story, there is the beginning stages of a lawsuit against a young woman who had a home-abortion past the legal time restriction. Each character is in a phase of reflection as to how they ended up where they are, and because of the hostile situation, what they might become.
Throughout the novel, Picoult supplies the reader with multiple views as well as statistics and facts about abortion, women’s health, and the violence that has occurred due to the tension in opposition on the issue. She also gives the reader a genuine understanding of what it’s like to be a woman today, faced with the difficulty of making decisions and receiving the ramifications of those decisions for what we do with our bodies. I think Picoult, as always, discusses this hot topic in a graceful manner, allowing all sides of the conversation to take place between her characters and allowing her readers to quietly observe (although, if they’re like me, they’re squirming in anticipation of what will happen to these characters.) I also will say that there is indeed trademark Picoult plot twists- one of which I saw coming, one of which I did not, like a one two punch. I also love how she ties all the characters together this way.
I highly recommend A Spark of Light. I think the plot is spot on for the current political atmosphere, and think that not only should women read it, but men as well. It’s a quick read, though heavy in terms of content, and an excellent opportunity for discussion. It should be available on October 2, 2018.