As a fan of Jodi Picoult for years now, I of course was more than excited to get her latest novel A Spark of Light. While nothing she writes will compare to My Sister’s Keeper (in my humble opinion), one of the things I love most about Jodi is her ability to tackle tough subjects and turn them into a conversation via a fictional story with rich characters.
Her latest novel is centered around the age-old argument of pro-life or pro-choice regarding abortion, as well as women’s rights.
The description of the book on Goodreads reads:
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 crosshairs 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.
One of the most fearless writers of our time, Jodi Picoult 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.
As a woman and parent myself, I don’t necessarily condone or support the abolishment of abortion; however, I am neither pro-life or pro-choice, but rather pro women’s rights. I believe every woman has a right to choose what happens to her body, even if that involves pregnancy. I also understand that we are talking about a potential human growing inside of her and what rights that future child should have, but I also have the opinion that a baby is not “alive” until it is born, so how can something that hasn’t been born yet be “murdered”? And how can it be murder if it’s just tissue when most abortions occur? Do we allow tissue to have rights? By the time a fetus has a functional brain and fully developed heart and other organs, it is far too late to abort, so allowing the baby to have rights when it is more a baby than tissue makes sense, but do we value those rights over the rights of the woman carrying the potential baby?
I can’t answer these questions, nor can anyone, which is why we have such extreme opinions on both sides. These are the types of issues Jodi Picoult tackles in this novel. Every character is different and comes from a different angle regarding abortion and women’s rights. It is amazing to me how she can take such a controversial topic, include all sides of the argument, and interweave them into a crazy Venn diagram where all the opinions overlap and we are all left wondering, what is the right answer? How can we come to some sort of understanding as a country, and why do we have to resort to violence to be heard and feel understood?
While I don’t think this was her best novel to date (again, I'm biased with My Sister's Keeper), I do love the fact that she wrote this book during such a difficult and pivotal time in our country. Women died for their rights, to be equal to men, and it’s unreal how in 2018 this is still such a hot topic. There are many moments in this novel where she makes some poignant points through various characters’ dialogue, but perhaps the best thing she wrote was included in her author’s note, which reads as follows:
“Honestly, I do not believe we, as a society, will ever agree on this issue. The stakes are too high, and both sides operate from places of unshakeable belief. But I do think that the first step is to talk to each other—and more important, to listen. We may not see eye to eye, but we can respect each other’s opinions and find the truth in them. Perhaps in these honest conversations, instead of demonizing each other, we might see each other as imperfect humans, doing our best”.
One of the only issues I had with the book is there is a character, a background character that had a purpose and was the catalyst of the events of the gunman, but her story was not wrapped up in an appropriate way. Jodi sometimes leaves things to our imagination but this particular character inadvertently started the entire chain of events, yet we don’t know what becomes of her. While that was disappointing, the novel itself is still definitely worth a read. Especially if you’re a woman and especially if you have opinions about abortion and women’s rights. Perhaps reading this book will open your eyes to other perspectives.
And thanks to Jodi Picoult for once again working her magic and tackling such difficult issues and making her readers do some critical thinking and possibly reevaluate where we stand, or how we treat each other.
Guest Review: Kara Kelly