Full disclosure: I received a copy of this book from Penguin Random House of Canada in exchange for an honest review.
More than ten years ago, a friend gifted me a copy of Jodi Picoult’s My Sister’s Keeper for Christmas. After devouring that in the Dublin airport, I made my way through her back catalogue. At this point, I’ve read nearly all of her books, seen her speak in a bookstore and follow her on Twitter. I’d stopped reading them as religiously as earlier – I felt like her books had become somewhat formulaic.
But Small Great Things was incredible and got me back on the Picoult bandwagon.
I expected another tour de force with A Spark of Light and was somewhat disappointed.
A Spark of Light is the story of a shooting at an abortion clinic, of the person doing the shooting, the people stuck inside, and those who are affected on the outside. The book begins with the climax of the shooting and works backwards, hour by hour, to fill in the gaps of how that day came to be. The story is told by the hostage negotiator whose daughter and sister happen to be in the clinic, by the daughter, an older woman who has just received bad news, a nurse doing her best to help those injured, a doctor who always feared this day would come and a protester who is undercover, trying to get dirt on how the clinic really operates.
Picoult is not known for shying away from big issues. She always thoroughly researches her stories, her characters are always fully formed. Picoult specializes in taking big issues and breaking them down so that they are digestible, so that readers can see things from a perspective they hadn’t necessarily considered before. She didn’t do that with Small Great Things – it was clear where the right side was. Unfortunately, it felt like Picoult was going out of her way to balance the scales in A Spark of Light.
I went back and forth on this one. A Spark of Light starts with the adrenaline running and I found myself immediately invested. But the further back we find ourselves, the less exciting the story is, the further from the action we are. I thought maybe Picoult was trying to show both sides initially so that she could come down on the Pro-Choice side in the end, but she didn’t.
I guess I expected more from Picoult in this instance. At a time when women’s rights are under attack, when men are increasingly legislating women’s bodies, it felt a little irresponsible to give a voice to those who would support those politicians. I guess the bottom line for me is that I don’t really care about what would motivate a man to shoot up an abortion clinic. I do think Picoult tried to work around the shooter but I’m not sure that it totally worked for me.
Had this book been released five years ago, I probably wouldn’t have an issue with it. It’s classic Picoult in a lot of ways. But in light of the state of the world, it was a little too much reality for me.