A Spark Of Light by Jodi Picoult
The Center for women’s reproductive health offers a last chance at hope – but nobody ends up there by choice.
Its very existence is controversial, and to the demonstrators who barricade the building every day, the service it offers is no different from legalised murder.
Now life and death decisions are being made horrifyingly real: a lone protester with a gun has taken the staff, patients and visitors hostage.
Starting at the tensest moment in the negotiations for their release, A Spark of Light unravels backwards, revealing hour by urgent hour what brought each of these people – the gunman, the negotiator, the doctors, nurses and women who have come to them for treatment – to this point.
And certainties unwind as truths and secrets are peeled away, revealing the complexity of balancing the right to life with the right to choose.
Jodi Picoult follows up her previous literary novel Small Great Things, with another novel that centres around a contemporary moral issue. With Small Great Things the focus was on race and racism. With A Spark Of Light, the focus is on abortion rights and female reproductive rights.
The author has been very clever is the way the narrative is written. She never takes a stance on either side of the debate, she simply allows the characters from both sides of the debate to tell their stories. So whether you are pro-life or pro-choice, this would make for a thought-provoking read.
The novel works in a backwards storyline, starting with the huge event (a gun man entering an abortion clinic) and telling the stories of the individuals and how they came to be their that day. Not just the female patients but the staff members and the people accompanying the patients.
It isn’t long until we discover that one of the young women inside is a 15yr old girl named Wren. And Wren isn’t just anyone’s daughter, she is the daughter of the hostage negotiator brought into deal with the armed man.
‘She shouldn’t have come here she should have stayed a little girl’ – Wren 15yrs
The gunman is named George Goddard and slowly we begin to learn his backstory and why he has entered the clinic with an eye for revenge. . .
‘An eye, a life for a life’
The novel informs us of the backstory of the 5 hostages held inside and the owner and doctor who run the clinic. I was absolutely captivated by their stories and they felt so incredibly real. It wasn’t until I got to the authors note that I realised the depth of research the author has undertaken on the topic.
It really is worthy of your time to read this part of the novel.
The novel does detail the communication between the gunman and the negotiator and we learn both men’s history’s as they attempt to share their personal stake in this situation. But only one man can put down the gun and give up, a man that it seems is beyond reaching. . .
‘Some men wear responsibility and some men are worn by it’
The novel also covers a completely separate abortion case. One of a young woman arrested for taking abortion medicines, because in the state of Alabama although abortion may be legal, there are strict legal guidelines to be followed and adhered too. If this legislation is not followed to the letter, the woman may find herself facing a lengthy sentence as does 17yr old Beth.
‘We are all capable of things we never imagined’
Although the novel is a fictional story HEAVILY based upon facts, research and statistics. You as the reader do become dis-attached from the reality. That is when Jodi Picoult cleverly reminds us of the real-life case of Roe v wade. As a UK reader, I know that Roe v Wade is an incredibly important piece of legislation; but I was unaware of who Norma McCorvey was and the history that surrounds the 1970’s case. The details are again delivered from an unbiased viewpoint.
Jodi Picoult is not trying to conform readers but asking them to see things from the other side of the debate. It is very intelligently done; and the author deserves to win some awards for her brave take on such a personal issue for many women.
The novel tackles the theme of abortion from various angles: the emotional trauma, religious reasoning by telling the stories of the individuals involved within.
The novel does also cover the shame/stigma associated with choice of abortion and I felt this was a very important theme to include.
‘Good women want to be mothers, bad women don’t’
Personally, I am pro-choice. I wouldn’t personally wish to undertake an abortion and I never have. I don’t believe it is something any woman WANTS to undertake. I just don’t think it is something I could undertake, there is no religious/moral reasoning for this. It is just a personal feeling.
I do however, 100% believe in the legal right for ALL women to have access to safe and accessible abortions. Because every woman in the world does not live my personal circumstances and we must accept that we cannot decide for others. . .
‘It wasn’t sex that made you a woman. It was having to make decisions, sometimes terrible ones’
This novel deals with some tough themes. No matter which side of the fence you sit, your personal views will be challenged by the individual stories.
But I think the author puts it best. . .
‘Laws are black and white. The lives of women are a thousand shades of grey’ – Jodi Picoult