Thursday, 1 July 2021

A Spark of Light

A Spark of Light by Jodi Picoult

Paperback, 368 pages
Published 11th June 2019 by Hodder
(First published 2nd October 2018)

Shelves:  adult-fiction, books-i-own, contemporary, let-down, medical-conditions, read-in-2021, realistic-fiction, to-be-reviewed

My rating: 3.5 of 5 stars

Description via Goodreads:

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.

I am always keen to read anything written by Jodi Picoult and I was very keen to finally pick up and read A Spark of Light. The premise of this book sounded very interesting, thought-provoking and immediately grabbed my attention. Picoult is known for pushing controversial subjects to the forefront and exploring them without apology - this book is no exception.

A Spark of Light is a story set around an American women's reproductive health clinic on a fateful day when a gunman invades the building and holds everyone inside hostage. The setting allows for the exploration of several subjects, mainly centring around the often-debated, sensitive issue of abortion. Picoult introduces us to several characters in order to help us explore  many different thoughts, viewpoints and explanations. I loved the diversity of all of the different characters - people of different ages, professions, religions, genders, sexualities and backgrounds. Although there were many characters they all felt substantial and well developed. It was very easy to consider and empathise with almost every character. Ironically, the 'main' character, Wren, was the character that I found least interesting. 

Although the content was interesting and made for entertaining (though not joyful) reading, the timeline of this book is what both confused and disappointed me about this book. Picoult certainly made a daring choice by writing this book in reverse chronology but lamentably, it really didn't work for me. It meant that any suspense was quickly diminished in a story that had the potential to be extremely tense and gripping. Due to the timeline there were rarely any surprises or page-turning moments, so I did find some of the book a little laborious to get through - it even felt a little repetitive at times.

In conclusion, A Spark of Light was a story with great potential. I really enjoyed meeting the characters and I feel like I both debated a lot and learned a lot. In particular, I found the section about the actual procedure of abortion to be very educational and emotional. This book certainly leaves you with a lot to think about and I really loved and appreciated the exploration of all points of view. Though I can understand the author's desire for experimentation, I know that if the story was told in a traditional, chronological manner, I would have enjoyed it a lot more. 

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