Today sees another one of Jodi Picoult’s novels published in the UK; A Spark Of Light deals with the contentious subject of abortion. Given what is happening in the US and around the world with women’s reproductive rights and freedoms, this was a book that had piqued my curiosity.
At first I was disappointed with this book; told in a reverse narrative, it’s difficult to ‘get into’ at times. Picoult is a master of her trade, yet this is one book where at first I thought the execution does not meet what’s expected. We know that there is an active shooter at an abortion centre. But we are immediately thrust into the heart of the story; it takes a while to work back to the start-which is near the end of the book-and it’s hard to be interested.
The book itself:
In a way, I started to think of Picoult as a reporter; although the set-up may be fictional, she is balanced, and considers every side of an argument.
I have never understood the debate surrounding the topic of abortion; yes, I understand the arguments, but not how it inspires acts of violence. The shooter in the story has an issue he wishes to correct; his daughter had an abortion, and yet he thinks he is carrying out God’s will. By killing people. And at the end there’s an afterward by the author with the stats to match; they are abhorrent. You may not agree with abortion, but you don’t have to be violent.
There was also another dimension that I did not understand. The men in this view their daughters as ‘belonging’ to them, and they are the sort of character that says ‘I’ll kill your boyfriend if I ever find out that you’re in a relationship.’ Just what is this toxic possessiveness? What could possibly justify this? And isn’t that problematic?
I loved this book by the end, having found it hard to engage with; there’s a diverse cast list, all sides of the argument are explored. It’s also not patronising; it does not have an ending that sugar coats this harsh reality, tied neatly in a bow. Rather, it’s a snapshot of time, which continues on after the plot finishes.
If you read only one book this year, you should make it A Spark Of Light. Picoult’s gift as a writer is that she is almost writing history; this book is omnipresent, given what is happening today in terms of women’s reproductive health and rights.
There are two brilliant twists in this, that occur almost on the last page; it may be tricky to engage with, and you might not agree with the topic. But it is so worthwhile reading this book. (You can buy it here.)