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A Spark of Light


A Spark of Light

On a sunny fall day, The Center, a women’s reproductive health services clinic, is very busy helping a variety of women. All of a sudden, a man with a handgun rushes into the facility and starts shooting. The first one to die is Vonita, the owner, who falls down dead behind her desk. Panic breaks out. Several others are shot, and are either wounded or die. Dr. Louie Ward, who is in charge of the procedures, is hit in the leg and could lose it. This is how Jodi Picoult’s A SPARK OF LIGHT begins, pulling readers right into the story.

A couple of women and a 15-year-old girl try to hide. The young lady and another woman do find a safe place in the closet. The girl is Wren, the daughter of Lieutenant Hugh McElroy, who is the hostage negotiator. He manages to keep in touch with Wren by texting with her: “The point of establishing a relationship with a hostage taker was to make sure that you were the only source of information, and to give you time to find out critical information of your own.” McElroy knows all of the statistics and rules of how to slowly get through to the bad guy. He has to build a sense of connection between them in order to talk him down and have him release the hostages, if at all possible, before killing any more people. Especially his daughter.

"The narrative unfolds in an absorbing and interesting manner.... Picoult’s fans will find themselves riveted to the plot and to the characters, who are believable and sympathetic."

Bodies of the dead and wounded litter the small waiting room as the gunman, George Goddard, brandishes his pistol. He is truly mad and blows off steam in the faces of his captives. His motive for these unthinkable acts is that he knows his daughter had an abortion at this clinic. Because he is a very religious man, he blames everyone there for her misfortune, telling them that they murdered his grandchild.

McElroy can’t imagine what his daughter and sister, Bex, were doing at the clinic. He is both scared for his little girl and trying to gain Goddard’s confidence. Each of the women in the facility is defined by Picoult and given vibrant personalities. This makes for a cast of diverse and well-honed characters, all with different reasons for being at The Center on this day.

Janine, one of the women who came to ask for an abortion, is really a plant who is a “right-to-life” activist. She is wearing a wig and gives a phony name to the intake people. Picoult makes reference to Roe v. Wade when she introduces Janine. Norma McCorvey, who had been Jane Roe, did eventually change her mind, years later, after winning her case because “[S]he was born again.” The amount of good research and information given in this book is quite impressive. Picoult has a stellar reputation for believability throughout her body of work, which now consists of 25 novels.

The narrative unfolds in an absorbing and interesting manner. Readers enter the book at the end of the story and are slowly brought back to the beginning through a series of time frames. This makes for a realistic chronicle of the events that comprise A SPARK OF LIGHT. Picoult’s fans will find themselves riveted to the plot and to the characters, who are believable and sympathetic. This is an excellent read that is perfect for the onset of fall.

Reviewed by Barbara Lipkien Gershenbaum on October 5, 2018

A Spark of Light
by Jodi Picoult

  • Publication Date: September 24, 2019
  • Genres: Fiction, Women's Fiction
  • Paperback: 400 pages
  • Publisher: Ballantine Books
  • ISBN-10: 0345545001
  • ISBN-13: 9780345545008