When an egg is fertilized there is a microscopic spark of light — a light that can lead to beginning of life and consequently, become the most pivotal choice in a woman’s life. Jodi Picoult’s, “A Spark of Light,” follows a man through the hours of his life as he bursts into a women’s health clinic and takes those inside, hostage. Contrary to Picoult’s former novels in which each chapter is told from one character’s perspective, “ A Spark of Light,” reads chronologically, opening with the present and reverting back in time. The book begins with George Goddard, the gunman, having already taken over the health center for a few hours. It traces his story, along with the stories of those inside the clinic as well as those outside. Picoult reveals the reason that brought him here today —his own daughter’s visit to the clinic.
Picoult dives deep into each character’s story, revealing his or her own truth. As always, Picoult does not leave you with a black and white answer, but rather, a thousand shades of gray. She gives voice to the clinic’s abortion provider —someone who lost his mother to an abortion. She offers the voice of a child who is seeking birth control and taking the appropriate measures before she engages in sexual intercourse. There is also the perspective of an older woman who came in merely for a check-up. Then of course, there is a young lady, who after her visit, may have to live with much more than just the emotional cost of having an abortion because of stringent Mississippi laws.
From the outside looking in is Hugh McElroy, a detective, who quickly learns that his daughter is also inside the clinic. McElroy and Goddard are bonded by their wishes to keep their daughters safe and fight for them, but are blind-sighted by the inevitable fact that their daughters have become women. Together, yet from opposing sides, McElroy and Goddard negotiate a transaction that fights to save lives, both those they know and love, and the ones they expect to know and love.
“A Spark of Light” is a timely American novel as it couples the hot topic of abortion with gun violence. Picoult presents the hard questions and illustrates to what length a human will go to fight for those they love as well as how far a person will go in the name of something that he or she believes in. Across the United States, she points out that the waiting period to buy a gun is often shorter than the waiting period to get an abortion—a “waiting” time that can’t legally be justified if your state considers abortion murder at sixteen weeks.
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