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A Spark of Light :: Jodi Picoult

I have bookish confession this month: October’s Bookish Escape Crate book – A Spark of Light – is the first book I have read by Jodi Picoult! I used to read mostly fantasy books, and if I was reading something contemporary it was probably young adult. Then I had my daughter and was too scared of my feelings to read about the kinds of issues Jodi often covers in her books. Having now read this one, I’m still not quite sure what to think of her work – whether I’m a ‘fan’ or not. I’m looking forward to talking to people who love her work to find out how A Spark of Light compares to her backlist, and whether it’s representative of her usual writing style.

When Vonita opened the doors of the Center that morning, she had no idea that it would be for the last time. Wren has missed school to come to the Center, the sole surviving women's reproductive health clinic in the state, chaperoned by her aunt, Bex. Olive told Peg she was just coming for a check-up. Janine is undercover, a pro-life protester disguised as a patient. Joy needs to terminate her pregnancy. Louie is there to perform a service for these women, not in spite of his faith, but because of it. When a desperate and distraught gunman bursts into the Center, opening fire and taking everyone hostage, Hugh McElroy is the police negotiator called to the scene. He has no idea that his fifteen-year-old daughter is inside. I thought the writing itself was wonderful - I found it descriptive without being laboured, and I could really picture what was happening so clearly in my mind as I read. I also really liked the range of characters in the book, and the fact that we get to see the story unfold from so many different points of view. I was surprised though that I never really felt closely connected to any character in particular. I’m not sure whether this is because there are so many people, or because of the way the narrative is structured.

A Spark of Light is told backward through the hours of the day. I think this is probably to try and focus the reader on each of the character’s backgrounds and how their beliefs and life experiences had led them to be in the same place for difference reasons on that day, rather than focussing on what happens to them through and after the siege. While this is a clever idea, I didn’t really think it quite worked for me. I think I missed the suspense and tension that you would usually get from this sort of story and maybe already knowing pretty much how things were going to turn out for the characters kept me a bit removed from them. It also meant that the characters didn’t get an opportunity to really learn from each-other or get a better understanding of each-other’s beliefs.

Overall, I enjoyed this in the kind of way that I would enjoy an episode of something like Law and Order on the TV. It was a pretty easy read, but perhaps a bit flat and didn’t really leave a big impact on me or make me think about the issues it deals with afterwards the way I expected it to.

I gave this 3 stars and I think I would probably recommend it as a good summer read for someone who is looking for something a bit serious but not too heavy (or murder/crime-y). It would also be a good read for someone who wants to learn more about both sides of the pro-life/pro-choice debate, since the writing is quite balanced, and it is clearly well researched.