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A Spark of Light

Jodi Picoult shines a light on a controversial issue hoping to spark conversation and understanding.



The day starts like any other at the Center in Jackson, Mississippi. The women’s reproductive health service clinic offers care to anyone who passes through its door. Later in the morning, a desperate and distraught gunman, George Goddard bursts in, opens fire, and takes everyone inside hostage. His daughter had recently had an abortion. After rushing to the scene Hugh McEIroy, a police hostage negotiator, sets up a command center and begins making plans to communicate with the gunman. As McEllroy’s phone vibrates with incoming texts, he glances at it and discovers, Wren, his 15-year-old daughter, and his sister, Bex, are also inside the clinic. And they are not alone. With them are the African-American traveling doctor, a heroic nurse, a older gyn patient, a woman who has come to terminate her pregnancy, and a under-cover pro-life protestor.

When his daughter was younger, George had read to her from the Bible, instead of fairytales. Some stories, he knew, just don’t have happy endings. Better for Lil to understand that love was about sacrifice. That what looks like carnage, from a different angle, might be a crusade.


A SPARK OF LIGHT is a compelling story that starts at its end. In chapter one it’s 5pm and the people in the Center have been held at gunpoint for most of the day. Several of the hostages are injured and several others are dead. The succeeding chapters are structured backwards in hourly increments with each chapter detailing the thoughts and actions of each of the people in the clinic. While the backward time structure is creative and unique, it makes for a very difficult read, feeling choppy and disjointed. But keep going.

Jodi Picoult’s writing is impressively direct on such a controversial subject. Using the multiple father-daughter relationships as part of the story adds a nice sentimental touch. Picoult’s research had her talking to people on both sides of the abortion and contraception issue. She is hopeful that this book will inspire debate and conversation. You have to commend her efforts. Her epilogue provides some sobering facts and statistics.

Author Jodi Picoult is the author of twenty-four novels, many which have been New York Times bestsellers, including A Spark of Light She lives in New Hampshire with her husband and three children. Thanks to Netgalley and Ballantine Books for an advance reading copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

“We are all drowning slowly in the tide of our opinions, oblivious that we are taking on water every time we open our mouths.”

Publisher Ballantine Books

Published October 2, 2018

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