A Spark of Light
Jodi Picoult
Ballantine Books
October 2, 2018
384 pages

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 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 first Jodi Picoult book did not disappoint!

Hello there, my name is Kristin, and I’m probably the last person on earth to learn that Jodi Picoult is a great author. I’ve heard about all of her books but hadn’t gotten around to them. That said, A Spark of Light was the perfect first read from Picoult. Surrounding the mighty controversial topic of all time, abortion.

A Spark of Light is the telling of many different facets of abortion.

Following the discovery of his seventeen year old daughter’s abortion, a father seeks retribution by gunning down the lone abortion clinic in Mississippi. We begin inside the hostage situation at the clinic. People have been hurt, SWAT wants to head inside and take over, and the hostage negotiator is holding them back. Thus, Jodi Picoult has started us at the end, and with each following chapter takes us to the beginning.

Each chapter is the previous hour from the chapter we’ve read. In each chapter we go deeper into the thoughts and memories of every complex character. A pregnant nurse, a freshman girl seeking birth control, a “pro-lifer” undercover, a woman who just had an abortion and the doctor who performed it, and several more. Everyone had a secret or some kind of obstacle in their life which wouldn’t be fair for anyone to endure. Even the gunman has a backstory that makes you want to sympathize, if for only a moment.


This side, or that side …

As Picoult mentions in this book (in much better words) the stakes are too high for this issue to truly end. There will always be the pro-life and pro-choice camps. I didn’t feel that A Spark of Light was pushing too hard to persuade the reader in either direction. The book presents several viewpoints of abortion. Each woman who sought an abortion in this book had such different socioeconomic backgrounds. The doctor is a man of color who sees personally how race plays into the issue of abortion. In each of these narratives, I found myself surprised and considered these different ideas in comparison to my own.

When “every life matters” means protecting the rights of embryos, who is protecting the rights of women?

A Spark of Light was a very powerful book full of ideas that are so relevant and applicable to real life. The stories of these women are much like those of women we know. The women that we are. The story truly digs deeper into the depth of humanity. All of us are flawed human beings just trying to do better each day.

Jodi Picoult has taken a brave and bold step as an author.

I suppose it’s possible that Picoult has written other controversial books; however, anytime a public figure breaches such a controversial topic they stand to lose some fans. Picoult is very clear in cataloging how she researched for this book. I applaud her for sharing science based information. I thank her for taking what must have been a lot of time interviewing people on both sides of abortion. Hopefully all of her fans appreciate her effort to open our eyes to the varying lives affected by one deeply personal topic. Even if A Spark of Light doesn’t move the reader to a different stance on abortion, the content is moving enough to help the reader feel a little more empathy for their opposite.