A Spark of Light by Jodi Picoult
October 2, 2018
My Rating: 🍪🍪🍪🍪
The books I read are usually uncomfortable in a creepy, mysterious, “this could never happen” kind of way (if you haven’t noticed, I like thrillers). A Spark of Light was uncomfortable in a “this has happened and will happen again, and I have never been forced to think about it for 400 pages before” kind of way. The premise of the story revolves around a shooting at an abortion clinic in Mississippi, and utilizes a reverse-chronological timeline to explore the backstories surrounding how each person in the clinic (referred to as The Center) ended up there on that particular day.
Each character in The Center has a different reason for being there, a different set of circumstances that led up to them walking through the door that morning, and a painfully heartbreaking set of emotions surrounding their decisions. Picoult poignantly illustrates the fact that abortion is not an easy choice, it is not a choice anyone wants to make, but the right to have control over your own body is paramount. She also depicts the other services clinics like The Center offer, and debunks myths surrounding Planned Parenthood and what would happen if similar operations were defunded. The author’s note in the back of the book offers extensive insight into the facts and figures that make up the amount of abortions in the United States, and the related violence that sadly ensues each year. Her story is research based, but the characters she brings to life are uniquely her own.
Hugh, the hostage negotiator outside the clinic, is trying desperately to remain level-headed, while coaching the shooter, although he knows that his own daughter, Wren, and sister, Bex, are inside. Bex let Wren skip out of school early so she could take her to The Center to get birth control without needing to fumble through an awkward conversation with her dad. Also in the clinic are Olive, an older woman coming in for a checkup after a cancer diagnosis, a doctor, a nurse, and an undercover protestor who is trying to record incriminating information about what women experience when they go into the clinic for an abortion, among others. And then there’s the shooter. George looks like an ‘ordinary guy’ from the standpoint of the others in the clinic, someone you wouldn’t give a second look to if you passed him on the street. He’s a single dad, and his daughter just had an abortion without his knowledge.
Intertwined through the scenes at the clinic are chapters following a seventeen year old girl named Beth, who self-induced a chemical abortion using pills she bought online, and is now simultaneously in the hospital due to complications from the abortion, and awaiting a possible trial. I didn’t really give much thought to how these chapters fit into the goings on at The Clinic, but the way they tied in ultimately took my breath away when, in one of the final chapters (SPOILER ALERT!) we learn that Beth is George’s daughter.
Despite my discomfort while I read this book, I give it a rating of 4. The discomfort was good, it was necessary, and it was informative. We all need to read outside our comfort zones every so often. That being said, I didn’t love the way the storyline was laid out going backwards in time, for some reason it made things seem repetitive to me, and a little confusing at the beginning. I was also left wanting to know more about what exactly had happened when George found out about his daughter, and what he really knew surrounding her abortion before he went to The Clinic, since ultimately, that was not where her abortion was performed.
I matched the gorgeous watercolor cover of this book with some classic M&M cookies, although I didn’t have much of an appetite while pursuing such a heavy read.