Book Review: A Spark of Light by Jodi Picoult

Goodreads: A Spark of Light
Publisher: Allen & Unwin
Publication Date: 03 October 2018
Genre: Contemporary Fiction


(4 pandas)

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.

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.

TL;DR: Powerful, moving and makes you reflect on your opinions. It’s easy to read but not an easy read due to the topics (mainly abortion). Jodi Picoult manages to tackle another controversial, but highly relevant, issue through A Spark of Light without taking sides or pointing fingers, it’s up to you to form your own opinion on the matter.

CW/TW: abortion, gun violence, hostage situation

There’s a reason that Jodi Picoult has been one of my favourite authors ever since I discovered her books in high school. She manages to tackle incredibly controversial topics through her stories, all without pointing fingers or taking sides. If you ever feel like maybe she’s trying to sway you in a certain direction, that thought will go flying out the window in the next paragraph or chapter as she writes from an opposing POV. Through the extensive research that you can tell goes into each book she writes, she manages to lay out contrasting opinions that makes the reader really think and consider their own opinions. It’s such an incredible talent and I applaud her ability to do it time and again.

“We are all drowning slowly in the tide of our opinions, oblivious that we are taking on water every time we open our mouths.”

With A Spark of Light, Picoult took me on an emotional roller coaster ride. There’s an edition of the book that’s covered in bright pastel colours which stands in stark contrast with the content of the book. While her simple and compelling writing style makes it an easy read, the topics that she covers (abortion, gun violence, race and class issues, parenthood) most definitely are not. It’s been a while since I read one of her books, but I have to admit that some parts relating to abortion did get very graphic, so read with care.

The story was told in reverse chronological order so that our first glimpse of the characters occurs after the shooting and hostage situation. As we go back in time by the hour to the start of the event, the reader is thrown into a story filled with high tension, and the pacing continues fairly quickly throughout. We get a glimpse into each of the characters’ lives, with detailed backstories of how they came to be at the Clinic, and I thought they were all well developed. With the way this is told, I admit that I was pretty confused by all the character POVs at the start, especially since they’re mentioned as if we should already be familiar with them. I did go back and forth a few times to make sure that I was remembering characters and events correctly and it made me wonder if the story would’ve been more compelling had it been told in chronological order.

“She had come to the clinic because she didn’t want to be a little girl anymore. But it wasn’t having sex that made you a woman. It was having to make decisions, sometimes terrible ones. Children were told what to do. Adults made up their own minds, even when the options tore them apart.”

There was one character POV that I know was pretty important to the story but at the same time, I wasn’t really sure if it was necessary? I don’t know how to explain what I mean without giving spoilers but… While it was interesting to see how certain characters were surprisingly connected through this particular storyline, in the end, it was left unresolved/hanging so I wasn’t really sure what to make of it.

“Your religion should help you make the decision if you find yourself in that situation, but the policy should exist for you to have the right to make it in the first place. 
When you say you can’t do something because your religion forbids it, that’s a good thing. When you say I can’t do something because YOUR religion forbids it, that’s a problem.”

What I think makes this story even more powerful is that, although it’s based in the United States and discusses US policies (that I personally don’t know much about), it’s still 100% relatable and especially relevant to all (women and men) who read it. This book had me hunched over and doing something that I never do in books, which is to write in them (!!!), but there I was underlining countless passages because of how much it resonated with me and made me think about my own ideas opinions on the subject(s). Plz don’t judge me too harshly right now lol

So why didn’t I give this five stars? I wished that some sections would’ve been shorter and that certain storylines could’ve been revisited in more detail. I felt that the ending was rushed and left slightly unresolved, as I still had many unanswered questions about certain events and characters. All said though, Picoult is truly a wonder with words. I highly recommend this one!

Have you read A Spark of Light or is it on your TBR?

#WWWWednesday: 07 August

It’s time for another WWW Wednesday, a weekly meme hosted by Sam @ Taking On A World of Words, which means I’ll be talking about:

  1. What did you read last?
  2. What are you currently reading?
  3. What will you read next?

What did you read last?

So you know how I said in my last post that my group read for A Spark of Light by Jodi Picoult probably wasn’t happening anymore? Well, coincidentally after I posted someone revived the group chat and I had to rush this read, but it was very easy to speed through. I’ve loved Jodi Picoult since I discovered her in high school so I’m very comfortable with her writing style — the detailed research that goes into her work is very obvious but she also knows how to tug on your heart strings! This wasn’t an easy read due to the topics that were covered, mainly abortion, but it was very well done. My review is coming up right after this! 😉

What are you currently reading?

So… This Is How It Always Is by Laurie Frankel was supposed to be another group read in July, but for some reason I just kept pushing it back. I actually started it on Sunday night, while the discussion was supposed to take place Monday morning (for my time zone), so I did miss the group chat and as it turns out, I’m really struggling to get through this book. It’s not because I don’t like it. I am enjoying it but there’s something about the writing style that is making me struggle to pick it up again after putting it down for work and life things. I like the characters; Poppy is so precious, Penn is my favorite fairytale spinning and magic loving dad, and it makes my heart hurt (in a good way!) and soar when her brothers support her 100%. They’re a beautiful and incredibly sweet family although by no means are they perfect. STILL, I’m struggling to get through this. I’m so tempted to pick up something else but I have a feeling that if I do, I’ll never finish this 🥺

What will you read next?

In the spirit of kicking off ARC August well into the second week of the month (I’ve always been late for everything so of course it extends to my book life too), I’m hoping to read at least two of these by the end of this week! Let’s see how I manage because right now, it’s looking like a bit of a stay in struggle town. Yikes! …Oh no, this isn’t the makings of a book slump is it?! 😩

What are you currently reading? How do you deal with an impending book slump?! Leave me a comment and let’s chat 🙂

Sundays in Bed With… #MyWeeklyWrapUp

So.. Can someone please tell me where the week went? Because I swear it just started! Now we’re back with another Sundays in Bed With… meme! This meme dares to ask you what book has been in your bed this morning and is hosted by Midnight Book Girl. Come share what book you’ve been you’ve spent time curled up reading in bed with, or which book you wish you had time to read today!

So you know how on Wednesday I mentioned that my buddy read for A Spark of Light by Jodi Picoult was probably cancelled because nobody was saying anything in the group chat? Well, not 30 minutes after I published my post, the mod revived the chat and everyone agreed to have the discussion this Sunday (as in today). So, I put all my other reads on hold and went full speed ahead with this one. I read the majority of it on Saturday (more accurately between the midnight hours with Sunday) and since I spent most of my day today out and about, I just finished it off this evening! There’s a reason Jodi Picoult has been a favorite since I discovered her books in high school. I had high expectations for this book and she didn’t disappoint! Be on the look out for my review of it which I’ll be posting on the blog tomorrow. My conclusion is that I highly recommend it!

SYNOPSIS: 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 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.

What are you currently reading?

Well, this week has come and gone in what literally feels like the blink of an eye! It makes me feel extra unproductive because I actually can’t recall much of what I did or read (for no particular reason other than my memory seems to be getting worse every day with this lack of sleep lol). I think I only managed to read three books, which is kind of average for me, although two of them were shortish romances. I also realize that I haven’t been posting much on my blog aside from the regular weekly memes that I do, which probably means that I’m behind on my reviews! I just haven’t had the energy to put my thoughts down into words after work lately, even though I don’t end up sleeping until the wee hours anyway! 🤦🏻‍♀️But I’m not going to harp on about this. It just is what is is! I’m hoping that I’ll get back into the blogging and review writing groove soon otherwise I probably won’t end up remembering half of what I read! LOL

Now, without further ado, here’s what I’ve posted this week, just in case you missed it.

Review: The Consequence of Falling by Claire Contreras
Review: That Second Chance (Getting Lucky #1) by Meghan Quinn
Top 5 Saturday: Books with Asian Settings
Friday Favorites: Sequels
July Monthly Wrap Up!
#WWWWednesday: 31 July
#TopTenTuesday (Freebie): Books From A Genre I Want to Read More of…
Goodreads Monday: 29 July
ARC Graphic Novel Review: The Magicians: Alice’s Story by Lilah Sturges and Lev Grossman

As an added extra, I’m sharing a song that I’ve been obsessed with since I discovered it on Friday, and which I’ve been playing non-stop ever since! It’s so, so good and just makes me wanna jump up and start dancing around my apartment (which I did do, obviously)!

How has your reading and blogging week been?
Come let me know in the comments and let’s have a chat 🙂

#TopTenTuesday: Autobuy Authors

It’s that time of the week again, friends! We’re back with another Top Ten Tuesday, a weekly meme hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl. This week’s prompt is: autobuy authors. I tried to diversify my list a little bit instead of repeating authors and books that I’ve already mentioned on here countless times, but you can’t avoid the inevitable because these authors are my all time faves, so they’re bound to make an appearance! It wasn’t as easy as I thought it would be to just recall all the authors I’d auto buy, so I had to do a little bit of rummaging around my memory (it’s really that bad) and came up with this list. Yay!

Neil Gaiman. Gaiman is a master of crafting words into incredibly bizarre and delightfully magical worlds within our actual world. I’m always left in awe of his stories. They’re dark, funny, did I mention bizarre, and oddly touching. When I read Neverwhere for the first time a few years ago there was no looking back. He’s been an autobuy since! I’ve really enjoyed everything of his that I’ve read including American Gods, The Graveyard Book, and The Ocean At the End of the Lane, to name a few!

Taylor Jenkins Reid. So I’ve only read two of TJR’s books: Maybe In Another Life and The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo. Both took my feelings and ripped them to shreds and I loved every minute of it! These reads are so emotionally packed and I’ve found elements of relatability in both of them, which obviously made it more impactful.

Jodi Picoult. I’ve loved Jodi Picoult since I first discovered her in high school. I think my first book by her was The Pact and it just wowed me with the writing style and the storylines. Since I read most of her books in high school, I don’t think I fully appreciated the complexity of her characters and their situations. I’d definitely love to re-read my favorites at some point!

Robin Sloan. Sloan’s books are so odd, intriguing, and full of quirky loveable characters that worm their way into your heart! Sourdough is probably one of my all time favorite books — no joke. It just makes me feel warm and so happy. Mr. Penumbra’s was also such a fun-tastic adventure with BOOKS and who wouldn’t love that?! I wish it were easier to get my hands on more of his books!

Helen Hoang. Hoang has only put out two books (The Bride Test and The Kiss Quotient) so far but I’ve loved both of them dearly! I love the diversity of her romances. They’re awkward, funny, sweet, (so) steamy, and have left me feeling light-hearted after each read. I am also eagerly looking forward to reading about QUAN in her next book, The Heart Principle. She describes it as: “kind of a cross between a gender-swapped Sabrina and Say Anything” … I MEAN C’MON. All the 😍 emojis.

Amie Kaufman & Jay Kristoff. I’m a little embarrassed to mention this but I’ve only ever read anything by both authors that they’ve written together. So that’s The Illuminae Files and Aurora Rising. It’s not that I don’t want to read what they’ve written separately, there are just SO MANY books and so few waking+non-working hours! But I will buy anything these two write together. They are the ultimate dynamic writing duo and slay me with their stories and characters!

V.E. Schwab. After finishing ADSOM I immediately knew it’d be one of my all-time favorite series and Schwab immediately jumped onto my auto buy authors list. I loved the writing, storyline and characters. The magic really came to life! I’ve since read and loved her Monsters of Verity and Villains series.

Christina Lauren. It’s as simple as I love CLo and pretty much everything that I’ve read from them! Josh and Hazel‘s Guide to Not Dating is undoubtedly one of my all-time favorite romances. This duo never fail to make me laugh, swoon, squeal, and generally have the most fun reading experience with their books. I’m so looking forward to reading Twice In A Blue Moon when it comes out!

Jane Harper. I discovered Harper this year after reading The Dry and there was just no looking back. Her writing is just stunning. It’s so deeply atmospheric, reading her stories takes you straight into the punishing dry heat of the Australian outback. Although her books are classified as thrillers, I’d say they’re more mystery, but they kept me guessing right up to the end.

Brian K. Vaughan. He’s the writer of my all time favorite graphic novel series, Saga. I’ve mentioned this one countless times already on my blog but it’s seriously so freaking good. Anytime someone asks me for graphic novel recs, Saga is the first one I mention. He’s also written Paper Girls, which I enjoyed!

Who are your auto buy authors? If you’ve done a TTT this week, leave your link in the comments and let’s chat auto buy authors!