Review: A Spark of Light

Jodi Picoult writes books for book clubs. That's her thing. Books that make you think and ask ALL THE QUESTIONS.

A Spark of Light is a book for a book club.

Here's the thing. I used to live for her work. In my late teens and early twenties, I couldn't fly through her books fast enough, my greedy little grabby hands always hungry for more more ever more. Under my stairs I have a pile of books that makes up a pretty big chunk of her back catalogue (I was an uber Jodi fan waaaaaaay before The Kindle) and which only live under the stairs because they take up more room than I have. I'd kind of gone off the boil with her a little bit though, to be honest. I think I just got a little bit saturated, which was, I admit, entirely my own doing.

Her more recent works, then, whilst they've hovered on my radar, I haven't read. And then I saw the buzz surrounding her newest release A Spark of Light, and my little ears pricked up. I first started hearing whispers of it roundabout the time of the Irish abortion referendum and we all know how I love stories with a little bit of relevance and so I was super keen.

I finally got round to reading it whilst I was away a couple of weeks ago, and, in true Jodi Picoult style I flew through it in a day. Part of that might have been the fact that I was laid on a beach with zero interruptions, but still: I flew through it in a day. That's A Good Sign.

Here's the deal - the book is set in Mississippi over the course of just one day, and is about a hostage situation in an abortion clinic - the only one, actually, in the state. A guy has everyone in the clinic at gunpoint and shots have been fired. A hostage negotiator arrives at the scene, only to find that his sister and teenage daughter are inside and it's all VERY TENSE.

Jodi Picoult, in my experience, has never been one to shy away from the nitty gritty - that's what I used to love about her, she grabs her subject and she tackles it full on and comes at it from all angles. This book talks gun violence, and pro-life, and pro-choice and does it all with this really deep and intricate characterisation so you never feel like Jodi's soap-boxing or trying to make a political point: these are just people who things are happening to, just like these things are happening to real people in real life and it's really interesting because Picoult makes us care and sympathise even with the characters we (I) fundamentally disagree with. It's clever. The book is pro-choice, but the pro-life characters are carefully crafted, their opinions and beliefs given page time and it makes the book a breeding ground for discussion. Like I said: book club book.

I really liked it.

I liked the storyline, and I liked the characters. I liked how bold this book was, how unflinching, how it ripped the lid right off that Pandora's Box of unpopular opinions, how it challenged itself and challenged me, how it gives you quotes such as laws are black and white. The lives of women are a thousand shades of gray because YES YES YES. I liked the way Picoult joins the dots, forging connections between people who would otherwise have never come into contact and I was a huge fan of the split narrative - so many voices could easily have become jumbled but it didn't, every single voice was clear and distinguishable and important to the story as a whole and I loved it.

What did I not like? The reverse timeline didn't work for me. I don't know why, except that it niggled at me the whole way through and I didn't feel like it added anything to the story as a whole. I don't understand the reasons behind doing it that way and honestly? It made it feel a little bit repetitive. Sometimes. Although that said - it was quite interesting to go backwards and trace how everybody came to be where they were that day and PERHAPS I HAVE JUST ANSWERED MY OWN QUESTION AS TO WHY.

Bascially, this book is classic JP and after a long time away it felt good to be back.

A Spark of Light is published on the 30th October. GO FORTH AND PRE-ORDER.