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A Spark of Light

Jodie Picoult has once again plunged the reader into an immediate situation, where lives are in the balance, and the scene is dire. There is urgency in the first page and it continues to evolve as we meet and understand the characters who have made choices that they now have to live with. The novel is structured in such a way that we enter into a hostage crisis. Moving backwards through the hours of the situation we meet the characters and their reasons for being where they are.

Told with great compassion, understanding, and knowledge, we learn that there is a gunman, who has already shot someone. He has entered an Abortion Clinic, and has several women captive. His motives are not yet clear, but we look at the women who are in the building and learn their stories. One of the women is an anti-Abortion member, who has infiltrated the clinic trying to get legal information to help to close it down. Another young woman is at the clinic to get a prescription for the contraceptive pill.

The stories of the various people in the clinic are compelling. The doctor who completes the procedures has great religious faith and believes that women should be given a chance when their situation calls for desperate measures. Each person has an informed and compelling argument as to why they believe so passionately in their personal view. When the Police arrive at the scene, they set up to negotiate with the gunman. No one is aware that it is the negotiator’s daughter in the clinic. Hugh has raised his daughter with so much love and understanding that he could never have dreamed that she would be there. Senior officers want to remove him, but it is Hugh that the gunman recognises and speaks to.

Everyone in this story has a clear and compelling reason to be where they are and to think the way they do. Ms Picoult has built a complex tale that makes you question your own beliefs and raises so many points that you cannot help but to become involved. This is not a story to read and not have an opinion. Even the young girl who went to get the contraceptive pill, because she wanted to be an adult, realises it is not sex that makes you an adult; it was having to make decisions, sometimes awful ones.

At the end of the story, there is quite a section of research by the author. She quotes the number of acts of violence committed by anti-abortion protestors in the USA. The numbers are quite shocking, but as bad, is the list of politicians who have passed more than 280 laws restricting access to abortions. It is not that the author is promoting abortion; she believes that there are many steps such as education, contraception, and counselling that could limit the necessary outcomes.

AuthorJodie Picoult
PublisherAllen and Unwin
DistributorAllen and Unwin
ReleasedOcotber 2018