Rating: 5 stars
I have to confess that this was my first ever foray into a Jodi Picoult book. I’d heard good things, of course, but always with the word ‘chick-lit’ floating around, and with pink covers with loopy writing, and a general reputation of being ‘girly’. I was young and foolish, readers, and even though it’s been a while since I shucked off those silly preconceptions, I hadn’t really got on the Picoult wagon, until this Christmas when I received this book from – if not Father Christmas himself – then one of his handsomest elves.
A Spark of Light tells the story of an abortion clinic in America in the midst of a hostage situation. It’s a story that brings together a great number of perspectives, both pro- and anti-choice (I know they prefer to be called ‘pro-life’, but they’re not writing this review; I am) and deals with both sides in an open-minded and compassionate way. It is – according to the author’s note at the back – informed by interviews with people from both sides of the debate, and time shadowing doctors and nurses in an abortion clinic, and it shows. It features a graphic but scientifically accurate description of a second-trimester abortion based on this observation. It deals with sensitive and difficult issues without feeling heavy or moralising.
In fact, it skates relatively free of landing anywhere on the debate, though perhaps I think that because I am pro-choice, and the author is also. I thought there was compassion and understanding for those on the other side of the debate, and even an understanding of the horror and upset inherent in the difficult decision to end a pregnancy.
As well as delving seriously but compassionately into this issue it is also a gripping and entertaining read – time peels back from the end of the hostage situation and we learn more and more about all of the people present, including the gunman. It’s tight and pacy, and has everything it needs in balance.
From my perspective, then, a very strong recommend. Perhaps not for the faint-hearted, with some violence and gore, but ultimately an exciting, moving, thought-provoking read.
Reviewed by Louise