The warm fall day starts like any other at the Center — a women’s reproductive health services clinic — its staff offering care to anyone who passes through its doors. Then, in late morning, a desperate and distraught gunman bursts in and opens fire, taking all inside hostage.
After rushing to the scene, Hugh McElroy, a police hostage negotiator, sets up a perimeter and begins making a plan to communicate with the gunman. As his phone vibrates with incoming text messages he glances at it and, to his horror, finds out that his fifteen-year-old daughter, Wren, is inside the clinic.
But Wren is not alone. She will share the next and tensest few hours of her young life with a cast of unforgettable characters: A nurse who calms her own panic in order save the life of a wounded woman. A doctor who does his work not in spite of his faith but because of it, and who will find that faith tested as never before. A pro-life protester disguised as a patient, who now stands in the cross hairs of the same rage she herself has felt. A young woman who has come to terminate her pregnancy. And the disturbed individual himself, vowing to be heard.
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.
Author: Jodi Picoult | Publisher: Ballantine Books
“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.”
This book spent quite a while on my to-read list, and I’m so glad that I finally picked it up. As always, Jodi Picoult gives us a brave, thorough, empathetic, well-rounded story about one of the most controversial topics of our time. The book’s unique format makes it even more interesting to read, and I felt it was just so well done.
A Spark of Light is told backward; the first chapter starts at 5pm, the second chapter starts at 4pm, and so on and so forth. I loved how this was almost a play on how some people love to read the last page of a book first (I am not one of them, lol). You start out knowing what’s going to happen, and then you slowly pull back the layers of how we got there.
The story has a cast of characters, each of whom has a very different, rich background that has led them to a woman’s health clinic. There’s a 15-year-old girl looking to get her first birth control prescription, a woman who grew up in foster care who’s just had an abortion, a pregnant nurse unsure if she wants to keep her pregnancy, the doctor at the clinic whose mother died from an unsafe illegal abortion, an undercover pro-life protester looking for condemning information, and a few others.
There’s also the 15-year-old girl’s father, who is the hostage negotiator outside, and of course the shooter, whose teenage daughter just had an abortion.
I can’t stress enough how well-rounded this story is; every person has such a unique path that led them to this moment, and so many sides of the issue are explored with empathy and research. The book reads fast and keeps you engaged, with some classic Jodi Picoult discoveries/plot twists at the end. I really enjoyed it.