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Book Review of A Spark of Light

A Spark of Light
A Spark of Light
Author: Jodi Picoult
Genre: Literature & Fiction
Book Type: Hardcover
khami6cr avatar reviewed on + 124 more book reviews

It starts off as a typical day at the Center, a women's reproductive health care clinic in Mississippi. For Hugh McElroy, it's his 40th birthday, and a day that he hopes will pass by quietly and quickly. But everything changes in a moment when an armed shooter enters the Center--shooting employees and patients on sight. Hugh, a negotiator for the police, is immediately called to the scene. Once there, he comes to the horrifying realization that his sister, Bex, and his only daughter, fifteen-year-old, Wren, are inside. Hugh tries to keep this information to himself, determined to save the people he loves the most. Meanwhile, many inside the clinic are struggling to stay alive, while the shooter is trying to come to terms with the reasons that brought him to the clinic in the first place.

"Here was the one thing all these women had in common: they hadn't asked for this moment in their lives."

Jodi Picoult is known for her powerful books that make you question the world around you, and her latest is certainly no exception. This novel asks interesting, thought-provoking, and timely questions: not just about abortion but about women's rights in general and the power men have over women, including their bodies. It makes you think, and it's certainly not an easy read. I found it to be an eye-opening experience. You may go in with a set view and particular political stance--and while this novel is in no way attempting to change your view--it allows you to see things from all sorts of points of view. The book is filled with complicated people and their stories; nothing is simple here.

The novel is told backward: starting with a shooter entering the clinic and working back from that moment. I'm not always a fan of this format, and it does take some getting used to (for me anyway). I read this one while I was sick and busy at work, so I always had to pause a little bit to get my bearings with each chapter. But the format causes the story to be extremely tense, forcing you to really want to know what happens. I've read some reviews where they thought the backward style left nothing unexplained/nothing left to know, but I found it to be the opposite. The first chapter leaves you with a near cliffhanger, and you spend the rest of the book frantically flipping the pages, trying to find out what happens.

I found this one to be especially poignant and excellent at portraying its characters. Picoult captures moments in time, as our characters remember back on things. It's a lovely look at fatherhood for two sets of families, and Hugh and his daughter, Wren, are a wonderful pair. Picoult does an excellent job paralleling them with another set of characters, too. Then there's Izzy, a nurse, with whom I dare you not to fall in love, and Dr. Louie, the doctor at the clinic. Both are so tough and easy to root for. I also learned so much while reading about them. It was easy to picture these characters and even easier to fall for them--all signs of a well-written novel.

By the end, Picoult has some twists up her sleeve: some surprising, some not. I thought the ending wrapped up a little quickly, but I still was impressed with one. You don't enjoy it, per se--the subject matter is a little rough for that, but you'll find yourself wowed by the characters and their shared story. 4+ stars.

I received a copy of this novel from the publisher and Netgalley in return for an unbiased review (thank you!).