“A Spark of Light” by Jodi Picoult is a powerful novel about people. Put aside the law, the religion, the emotion, the practicality, the righteous indignation, and you are left with people, people in crises, people suffering, people dying – people. For fifteen-year old Wren McElroy, it was not a good day to die.
The book drops readers into the middle of the conflict at 5 PM at
“The Center, a building on the corner of Juniper and Montford behind a wrought-iron gate, like an old bulldog used to guarding its territory… At one point, it had been called the Center for Women and Reproductive Health. But there were those who believed if you do not name a thing, it ceases to exist, and so its title was amputated, like a war injury. But still, it survived. First, it became the Center for Women. And then, just the Center. The last abortion clinic in Mississippi.”
The narrative progresses backward in time, beginning at 5 PM on that terrible day with descriptions that are poignant, compelling, and ever present. Picoult creates a sense of, place and time like no other. Descriptions are so real that one can see the blood, feel fear in the air, hear the click of the gun.
“Janine felt like she was watching a movie, one she was obligated to sit through even though she had never wanted to see it.”
Individual characters are introduced. How did they get here, to this moment in time, this trauma, this decision, life or death? What brought them? How will this change the future? How will each change the other? What happens now that everything is changed? How will each cope?
“Tomorrow. I mean, how do we go back to normal?” Joy shook her head. “Nothing’s normal.”
Readers know it will not well for anyone. Readers feel the pain in the pit of their stomachs tension, the grief in knowing there will not be a good outcome, and futility of wishing things could be different.
“Sometimes doing the right thing,” George said quietly, “means doing something bad.”
For these characters, things have been taken that cannot ever be replaced; irreparable things have been set into motion.
“Izzy wondered if now— finally— the fault line of her life would no longer be the first day she earned a paycheck. It would now be today’s shooting; she would divide everything into before and after.”
Picoult has written a compelling book plunges readers into the midst of a crisis, a very personal crisis for the Picoult’s diverse cast of characters, and a very relevant crisis for society as a whole. There are no easy answers. Readers will remember this book for a long time.
“Joy stared at this other woman, who believed the polar opposite of what she believed, yet with the same strength of conviction. She wondered if the only way any of us can find what we stand for is by first locating what we stand against.”
I received a copy of “A Spark of Light” from Jodi Picoult, Random House Publishing, Ballantine Books, NetGalley, and. Goodreads.