Jodi Picoult returns with her 25th novel, set over the course of one day as a gunman takes those inside an abortion clinic hostage. The men and women in the clinic and just outside narrate in alternating points of view as the reader works to understand what brought them all there that day and why they feel the way they do. While I enjoyed the premise, and the cover is obviously beautiful, this isn’t my favorite Jodi Picoult book. Either the structure or the quickly changing POVs and weirdly done insertions of stats didn’t let me fall into the story as I usually do with her books.
A Spark of Light takes place over the course of one day, beginning at 5PM. Each chapter works backwards until 8am, before anyone arrives at The Center, which by 5PM is a verified crime scene. Then, there’s an epilogue. So, you know what’s going to happen from the beginning, pretty much. The first chapter draws you in because you don’t understand yet, but once you’re in, the rest of the chapters just work to show how you got there. The POV changes every few paragraphs or pages, which is interesting but doesn’t exactly let you get lost in the character. There’s Hugh, the hostage negotiator outside. There’s George, the gunman. There’s Wren, the daughter of Hugh, and her aunt, Bex. There’s the clinic’s doctor, Dr. Ward, and a nurse, Izzy. As well as a patient who just had an abortion, Joy, and a patient who was undercover for a pro-life group, Janine. There’s also Beth, who is not at the abortion clinic but is somehow tied to the actions inside nonetheless.
The stories in this book are compelling, I want to assure you of that. Everyone has beliefs and everyone’s beliefs are informed by different factors. Picoult always does a lot of research but she presents each side reasonably. No one is crazy in this book because everyone has a reason for their actions, even if it’s not ENOUGH of a reason, ya know what I mean? But Picoult tried to shoe-horn a lot of statistics and facts about abortion and beliefs into every single character’s point of view, but it didn’t feel natural. Sure, an abortion doctor knows the facts but does he really think them to himself as he is bleeding out from a wound? Probably not. They felt forced and I’m not sure how better to tell them, but there has to be a way that’s less heavy-handed.
This isn’t my favorite Jodi Picoult book but it’s topical and timely and I didn’t not enjoy it. I just didn’t the same OMG love for it as I did when I reached the end of Small Great Things and Leaving Time. The relationship between Hugh and Wren was a real shining point of this book, but ultimately it left me looking forward to reading something else.