Book Review: A Spark of Light by Jodi Picoult

Goodreads: A Spark of Light
Publisher: Allen & Unwin
Publication Date: 03 October 2018
Genre: Contemporary Fiction


(4 pandas)

When Vonita opened the doors of the Center that morning, she had no idea that it would be for the last time.

Wren has missed school to come to the Center, the sole surviving women’s reproductive health clinic in the state, chaperoned by her aunt, Bex. Olive told Peg she was just coming for a check-up. Janine is undercover, a pro-life protester disguised as a patient. Joy needs to terminate her pregnancy. Louie is there to perform a service for these women, not in spite of his faith, but because of it.

When a desperate and distraught gunman bursts into the Center, opening fire and taking everyone hostage, Hugh McElroy is the police negotiator called to the scene. He has no idea that his fifteen-year-old daughter is inside.

Told in a daring and enthralling narrative structure that counts backward through the hours of the standoff, this is a story that traces its way back to what brought each of these very different individuals to the same place on this fateful day.

TL;DR: Powerful, moving and makes you reflect on your opinions. It’s easy to read but not an easy read due to the topics (mainly abortion). Jodi Picoult manages to tackle another controversial, but highly relevant, issue through A Spark of Light without taking sides or pointing fingers, it’s up to you to form your own opinion on the matter.

CW/TW: abortion, gun violence, hostage situation

There’s a reason that Jodi Picoult has been one of my favourite authors ever since I discovered her books in high school. She manages to tackle incredibly controversial topics through her stories, all without pointing fingers or taking sides. If you ever feel like maybe she’s trying to sway you in a certain direction, that thought will go flying out the window in the next paragraph or chapter as she writes from an opposing POV. Through the extensive research that you can tell goes into each book she writes, she manages to lay out contrasting opinions that makes the reader really think and consider their own opinions. It’s such an incredible talent and I applaud her ability to do it time and again.

“We are all drowning slowly in the tide of our opinions, oblivious that we are taking on water every time we open our mouths.”

With A Spark of Light, Picoult took me on an emotional roller coaster ride. There’s an edition of the book that’s covered in bright pastel colours which stands in stark contrast with the content of the book. While her simple and compelling writing style makes it an easy read, the topics that she covers (abortion, gun violence, race and class issues, parenthood) most definitely are not. It’s been a while since I read one of her books, but I have to admit that some parts relating to abortion did get very graphic, so read with care.

The story was told in reverse chronological order so that our first glimpse of the characters occurs after the shooting and hostage situation. As we go back in time by the hour to the start of the event, the reader is thrown into a story filled with high tension, and the pacing continues fairly quickly throughout. We get a glimpse into each of the characters’ lives, with detailed backstories of how they came to be at the Clinic, and I thought they were all well developed. With the way this is told, I admit that I was pretty confused by all the character POVs at the start, especially since they’re mentioned as if we should already be familiar with them. I did go back and forth a few times to make sure that I was remembering characters and events correctly and it made me wonder if the story would’ve been more compelling had it been told in chronological order.

“She had come to the clinic because she didn’t want to be a little girl anymore. But it wasn’t having sex that made you a woman. It was having to make decisions, sometimes terrible ones. Children were told what to do. Adults made up their own minds, even when the options tore them apart.”

There was one character POV that I know was pretty important to the story but at the same time, I wasn’t really sure if it was necessary? I don’t know how to explain what I mean without giving spoilers but… While it was interesting to see how certain characters were surprisingly connected through this particular storyline, in the end, it was left unresolved/hanging so I wasn’t really sure what to make of it.

“Your religion should help you make the decision if you find yourself in that situation, but the policy should exist for you to have the right to make it in the first place. 
When you say you can’t do something because your religion forbids it, that’s a good thing. When you say I can’t do something because YOUR religion forbids it, that’s a problem.”

What I think makes this story even more powerful is that, although it’s based in the United States and discusses US policies (that I personally don’t know much about), it’s still 100% relatable and especially relevant to all (women and men) who read it. This book had me hunched over and doing something that I never do in books, which is to write in them (!!!), but there I was underlining countless passages because of how much it resonated with me and made me think about my own ideas opinions on the subject(s). Plz don’t judge me too harshly right now lol

So why didn’t I give this five stars? I wished that some sections would’ve been shorter and that certain storylines could’ve been revisited in more detail. I felt that the ending was rushed and left slightly unresolved, as I still had many unanswered questions about certain events and characters. All said though, Picoult is truly a wonder with words. I highly recommend this one!

Have you read A Spark of Light or is it on your TBR?

15 thoughts on “Book Review: A Spark of Light by Jodi Picoult

    • Thanks Amanda! I do love Jodi Picoult but it’s been a while since I’ve read her books. I really enjoy that she explores a topic so well, and obviously presents all the research she’s done in writing her stories. I hope you enjoy it if you ever decide to pick it up!


    • It’s very powerful and I think it would definitely make a good book group read because there’d be so much to discuss. I personally don’t think the reverse order wasn’t as impactful as it could’ve been told in chronological order, but it was still interesting! Hope you enjoy it if you pick it up 🙂


  1. You are like one of my other friends who absolutely loves Jodi Picoult! She keeps telling me I need to read her work but I feel like I’m not mentally prepared to handle her books yet so I have held off on it. Do you feel like the book being “backwards” per se worked out? Does it seem like having the ending at the beginning gets rid of the suspense of what happens during the hostage situation?

    Liked by 1 person

    • I hope you do read her eventually, Leelynn! Most of her books do cover controversial/heavier topics so I totally get needing to be in the right mood for it!

      I personally don’t think the reverse chronology did the book any favors. It was defo an interesting way to tell the story but I feel that it would’ve been more powerful if it had been told in the right order. With the climax ending in a bit of a ‘cliffhanger’ at the start, I wanted to see if the story would come back round to it at the end, so I was still hanging on and I still wanted to know how everyone ended up at the Clinic in the first place, but it defo would’ve been more suspenseful if told chronologically!

      Liked by 1 person

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