To say that I was excited to be approved to review this novel via Netgalley is an understatement. I squealed. Loudly. It is without exception my most anticipated release of the year, and I already have my ticket to see Jodi speak in Sheffield next week as part of the UK launch of the novel.
At its heart, A Spark of Light is the examination of differing opinions and beliefs on the subject of abortion rights. It tells the story of a group of people held hostage by a shooter in an abortion clinic in Jackson, Mississippi. Police hostage negotiator, Hugh McElroy desperately tries to talk the shooter down, all with the desperate knowledge that he has more to lose than most. His fifteen year old daughter, Wren, is inside the clinic.
I always read a novel by Jodi Picoult in complete awe. I enjoy her style of writing and the way in which she seems to effortlessly turn simple words into living, breathing human beings within the tale she is spinning. What I love most however, is her ability to fearlessly tackle difficult subjects, challenging the reader to understand and appreciate the point of view of others. This novel in particular concerns a notoriously divisive subject. Abortion. A Spark of Light is not designed to sway the reader to a particular side of the argument, instead it seeks to act as a voice for both sides, educating and informing whether you are pro-life or pro-choice. The characters in the novel fall on both sides, and each story is handled with sensitivity, empathy and a great depth of understanding. The reader is never swayed, simply informed and left alone with their own thoughts. The issue is deeply contentious and so it is, understandably, a hard read at times. Justice could not be done to the subject otherwise. I don’t mind admitting that I read very often in the close vicinity of a box of tissues.
I am consistently impressed by the sheer amount of research which goes into a Jodi Picoult novel. It’s not just the knowledge on the subject she is writing on, in this case abortion, but it is the minute detail she goes into within her characters backgrounds. Jobs or expertise they hold, their background or hobbies they have. It all serves to flesh out a character formed on paper and bring them to life. I always read the acknowledgments keenly, the things that the author has witnessed, the interviews undertaken, the people who share their knowledge with her; it’s truly incredible. To my mind it is this attention to detail which turns a good story into a magnificent one, one which lives and breathes in the mind and shakes you by the lapels to make you take notice of it.
In this novel, I particularly enjoyed the structure of the story. It starts at the most climactic part, amidst tense negotiations, and then works backwards, hour by hour, examining the events which lead both to the shooting and the reasons for the presence of each character in the clinic on that day. It is both clever and completely enthralling. As we read backwards in time, the narrative moves forwards, connections are made and the tension steadily increases to boiling point.
The characters are richly drawn and I wept for them all at different points. By the novels end I was so deeply invested that as I turned the last page I felt as if I had been there with them, shared in their pain and witnessed the last few hours first hand. I especially liked the duality of the characters. For each character, each opinion, each decision made, an opposite existed somewhere in the story sitting on the opposite side of the argument.
This is the type of novel that is meant to provoke thought and start conversations and to my mind it is a complete success in this regard. I feel as if I’ve been offered a fair and empathic glimpse at both points of view. A Spark of Light is bound to be a huge success. From the masterful storytelling to the confident handling of a highly emotive and controversial issue, A Spark of Light had me entranced from beginning to end, so much so that my previous favourite Nineteen Minutes has been usurped from the top of my favourite list!
Whose choice is it?
The masterful new novel from the Number One bestselling author of Small Great Things.
The Center for women’s reproductive health offers a last chance at hope – but nobody ends up there by choice.
Its very existence is controversial, and to the demonstrators who barricade the building every day, the service it offers is no different from legalised murder.
Now life and death decisions are being made horrifyingly real: a lone protester with a gun has taken the staff, patients and visitors hostage.
Starting at the tensest moment in the negotiations for their release, A Spark of Light unravels backwards, revealing hour by urgent hour what brought each of these people – the gunman, the negotiator, the doctors, nurses and women who have come to them for treatment – to this point.
And certainties unwind as truths and secrets are peeled away, revealing the complexity of balancing the right to life with the right to choose.
About the Author
Jodi Picoult is the author of twenty four internationally bestselling novels, including MY SISTER’S KEEPER, HOUSE RULES and THE STORYTELLER, and has also co-written two YA books with her daughter Samantha van Leer, BETWEEN THE LINES and OFF THE PAGE. She lives in New Hampshire with her husband and three children.
Her most recent adult novel SMALL GREAT THINGS first published in the UK on 22nd November 2016. It was both a Sunday Times and New York Times bestseller, as well as a Richard and Judy Book Club 2017 pick.
Her new adult novel, A SPARK OF LIGHT publishes in the UK on 30th October 2018.
Follow Jodi Picoult on Twitter @JodiPicoult and find out more at http://www.jodipicoult.co.uk or on Facebook/JodiPicoultUK.
*I received an ebook version of A Spark of Light via Netgalley. This review is my honest opinion.