Review by Ben Hunter
A thump of energy from the get-go, A Spark of Light by Jodi Picoult is focused on a sole-surviving women’s health clinic in a deep-south state. A “pro-life” gunman has stormed the place and is now deep in a hostage crisis. Each of these hostages has an urgent and moving story to tell, most of all Wren, who came that day past a sea of older men and women protesting her choice and her right to make it. Now on the other side of the barricaded door, her own father is the specialist police negotiator fighting to keep her alive.
It all sounds very powerful and dramatic, which it is. But “powerful and dramatic” this is the playing field on which Picoult truly shines. Such a high-stakes plot would overpower the work of many novelists but Picoult pours her heart into every moment of the nail-biting drama, infusing every page with life and feeling. She finds ways to connect what we so often see as irreparable divisions in our world. She speaks out where everything is thought to be spoken. She beams light into the dark spaces and lets the reader see them sparkle.
How does she do this again and again? Picoult has maintained the quality and credibility of her work in spite of massive commercial success, which isn’t an easy feat. In my opinion, Picoult is one of but a few authors in that unfathomable stratosphere of success (Hello Stephen King! Hello J.K. Rowling!) who strive to write books that are 100% their own, and who deliver smash hits each and every time.
Picoult’s has a large and devoted fan base for a very good reason. She always takes the time needed to meet the high benchmark set by her previous work, to write books that her readers will love. A Spark of Light, like all of her novels, is well worth waiting for.
A Spark of Light
When Vonita opened the doors of the Center that morning, she had no idea that it would be for the last time.
Wren has missed school to come to the Center, the sole surviving women's reproductive health clinic in the state, chaperoned by her aunt, Bex. Olive told Peg she was just coming for a check-up. Janine is undercover, a pro-life protester disguised as a patient. Joy needs to terminate her pregnancy. Louie is there to perform a service for these women, not in spite of his faith, but because of it.
When a desperate and distraught gunman bursts into the Center, opening fire and taking everyone hostage, Hugh McElroy is the police negotiator called to the scene. He has no idea that his fifteen-year-old daughter is inside.
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.
About the Contributor
Ben is Booktopia's dedicated fiction and children's book specialist. He spends his days painstakingly piecing together beautiful catalogue pages and gift guides for the website. At any opportunity, he loves to write warmly of the books that inspire him. If you want to talk books, find him tweeting at @itsbenhunter