*I received a free copy of this book via NetGalley, with thanks to the author and publishers. The decision to review and my opinions are my own.*
Blurb: 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.
I have read a few Jodi Picoult books and found they tend to share a common template: a morally difficult or controversial issue is presented and then all sides of it examined in great depth, via the emotions and experiences of a few core characters. The tone tends to be empathetic and impartial, and some shocking twists are thrown in along the way to challenge the preconceived notions and assumptions of characters and readers alike.
Here the big issue under the spotlight is abortion and, true to form, Picoult has kept her impartiality admirably. She presents the different viewpoints sympathetically, showing that once you have an understanding of people’s private stories then there are no easy right or wrong answers; no baddies and goodies, just people dealing with their lives in the way they feel is best for them.
However, far from being the usual involved and detailed examination, this novel read like a series of short vignettes on the subject. Characters were introduced with a synopsis of their position and flashes of their history for a little context, but it all felt a little bare and a little rushed. It lacked the detailed fleshing out of character that allows the reader to feel their pain and fear for their safety / success.
As a quick round-up of different attitudes to abortion it was well-written and fairly presented. It just lacked that emotive pull and punch that I normally expect in writing from this author.
The Center squatted on the corner of Juniper and Montford 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 the clinics where they practiced risked closing, too. One by one the clinics shuttered their windows and boarded up their doors. Now, the Center was a unicorn – a small rectangle of a structure painted a flourescent, flagrant orange, like a flag to those who had traveled hundreds of miles to find it. It was the color of safety; the color of warning. It said: I’m here if you need me. It said, Do what you want to me; I’m not going.
– Jodi Picoult, A Spark of Light
A Spark of Light is available at Amazon right now!