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 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.
I love Jodi Picoult, you may have guessed this already from my other reviews of her books. She has an unbelievable talent of tackling extremely difficult, and sometimes controversial subjects, and manages to bring them to life through her writing.
A Spark of Light is a book that really stuck with me for many reasons; the way it is written, the subject it explores and the power of the characters. However, upon reflection, I think a key reason why this book has stuck with me is due to the time in which I read it. I'm Irish and as some of you may or may not know, an abortion referendum took place in Ireland in 2018. To give you some context, Ireland is a country that was bent to the will of the Catholic Church for a very long time and in the past decade there has been a huge movement away from this. Ireland was the first country in the world to grant equal marriage rights by popular vote; this was a momentous day for the country.
The abortion referendum, however, was a period in which Ireland was experiencing a huge divide. Friends and families stopped speaking to each other on account of their beliefs and how they would vote. 'Repeal the 8th' became a huge movement within the country and similar to the equal marriage referendum, Irish expats travelled home from every corner of the world to have their say (in Ireland, there's no postal vote or anything, you have to be in the country to vote).
I remember having conversations with friends and colleagues and very heated discussions and arguments would arise as a result. The views between generations were rarely aligned and to be perfectly honest, this period in Ireland was at times a dark and difficult one. I remember a colleague saying that she felt she could no longer talk to her grandmother because she had 'old school' views on the topic. Hearing people say these things really showed the dark cloud that was over the country at the time. Younger generations shouted for the rights of women's bodies, whereas older generations couldn't see passed the beliefs that were instilled in them from a completely different time. Both sides had very loud and clear opinions which could be seen on posters on every corner of every street.
I am not expressing any views here as that is not the point of this blog. Whether your belief is that life starts from conception or that women should have full control over their bodies, is your prerogative. I just wanted to give some context to the time in which I read this book and why it stuck with me so much; my home country was going through an extremely momentous and trying period and I couldn't have picked up this book at a more appropriate time.
Ok onto the book. Sorry, I swear these reviews get longer every time! As you've probably guessed from the plot summary and my rambling, Picoult addresses the topic of abortion and women's reproductive health in this book. We see many points of view on this topic throughout the book; those who have had an abortion and their reasons, those against abortion and their reasons, those working in these centres and their reasons and more. I don't know how Picoult does it, but she is so amazing at giving each character their own voice and you really get to know who they are, what they stand for and why.
One thing I found so interesting about this book is the way the story is told. You'll see quite quickly that it works it's way backwards; it starts with the shooting and hostage taking and then works its way back to why this happened.
I'm not going to say much more as I don't want to spoil it but no matter your view on this topic, I think this is such a worthy read. Picoult gives us the opportunity to understand the many views people have on this and allows you to make up your own mind. She isn't telling you to believe this or that, she is merely opening your eyes to the many beliefs surrounding abortion, women's reproductive rights and rights to their bodies and the rights of unborn children.
This book is hugely eye opening, sometimes frustrating and difficult to read but I think we need to put ourselves in these positions more; really test ourselves and open our eyes and minds to what is going on around the world and to the many beliefs and views that surround these movements.
IN 3 WORDS/PHRASES:
Raw and Real
“If we are meant to only have children who never encounter difficulty in life, then no one should be born.”
This is such a tough one, as we get to know some of these characters on a really deep level and whether or not we disliked them initially, we learn more about them and why they say and do the things they do. Therefore, it's really hard to choose which is a favourite because they're all so different and have such deep and emotional stories...So I'm actually not going to choose a favourite as I don't want to influence how you perceive each character.
9/10 - the only reason it isn't a perfect 10/10 is because I enjoyed Small Great Things and The Storyteller more. This book is still amazing but I found the others more enjoyable to read, if that makes sense?