Summary and book reviews of A Spark of Light by Jodi Picoult

A Spark of Light

by Jodi Picoult

A Spark of Light by Jodi Picoult X
A Spark of Light by Jodi Picoult
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  • Published:
    Oct 2018, 384 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Karen Lewis

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Book Summary

A powerful and provocative new novel about ordinary lives that intersect during a heart-stopping crisis.

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 to 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.

Jodi Picoult—one of the most fearless writers of our time—tackles a complicated issue in this gripping and nuanced novel. How do we balance the rights of pregnant women with the rights of the unborn they carry? What does it mean to be a good parent? A Spark of Light will inspire debate, conversation ... and, hopefully, understanding.

FIVE P.M.

The Center squatted on the corner of Juniper and Montfort behind a wrought-iron gate, like an old bulldog used to guarding its territory. At one point, there had been many like it in Mississippi – nondescript, unassuming buildings where services were provided and needs were met. Then came the restrictions that were designed to make these places go away: the halls had to be wide enough to accommodate two passing gurneys; any clinic where that wasn't the case had to shut down or spend thousands on reconstruction. The doctors had to have admitting privileges at local hospitals -- even though most were from out of state and couldn't secure them – or those clinics risked closing, too. One by one they shuttered their windows and boarded up their doors. Now, the Center was a unicorn – a small rectangle of a structure painted a fluorescent flagrant orange, like a flag to those who had traveled hundreds of miles to find it. It was the color of safety; ...

Please be aware that this discussion guide may contain spoilers!
  1. The story is narrated from the points of view of ten different characters. Why do you think the author chose to include so many different perspectives? Was there a voice that you connected to most strongly? Did you have difficulty connecting with any characters?
  2. Regardless of their feelings on the issue of abortion, many characters are preoccupied with being a good parent. Why do you think it means to be a good parent?
  3. Initially, Joy and Janine seem to stand on opposite sides of the pro-life/pro-choice debate. By the end, do you think they have found common ground? Do you understand where each one is coming from? Is it possible to form a connection with someone with opposing viewpoints and still maintain a commitment to one's own ...
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Reviews

BookBrowse Review

BookBrowse

Picoult's nuanced exploration of multiple vantage points surrounding the abortion issue is to be commended. Her thorough research and careful construction of plot are apparent, and she explores these divisive issues with sensitivity and tact.   (Reviewed by Karen Lewis).

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Media Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Picoult's extensive research shines throughout, but the book's reverse chronological structure interferes with the complicated back stories...Nevertheless, this is a powerful story that brings clarity to the history of abortion and investigates the voices on both sides of the issue.

Kirkus Reviews
Novels such as this extensively researched and passionate polemic are not necessarily art, but, like Sinclair Lewis' The Jungle, they are necessary.

Booklist
Starred Review. Picoult delivers another riveting yarn... in this carefully crafted, utterly gripping tale.

Reader Reviews

Cloggie Downunder

yet another informative, insightful and thought-provoking read.
A Spark of Light is the twenty-third novel by popular American author, Jodi Picoult. In Jackson, Mississippi, a women’s clinic that provides, amongst other services, abortions is targeted daily by pro-life campaigners. They harass the staff and the ...   Read More

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Beyond the Book

The History of the Condom

Linen condom with instruction manual manufactured by Italian physician Gabriele FallopioWomen's health clinics like the one depicted in A Spark of Light offer many services beyond abortion, including providing access to pregnancy prevention tools like condoms. The condom is arguably the oldest pregnancy prevention method used by men that's still widely used today, albeit its early popularity was more to do with protecting against venereal diseases than for birth control. It's not the earliest form of birth prevention on record though; that honor goes to the pessary with records from 1850 BC showing Egyptian women using a combination of crocodile dung, honey and sodium carbonate to prevent unwanted pregnancies.

Some historians believe that condom usage can be traced back to the ancient Greek, Roman and Egyptian civilizations...

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