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review 2019-06-14 02:20
Spark of Light
A Spark of Light - Bahni Turpin,Jodi Picoult

So, I liked this one--only not as much as I usually like/love Jodi Picoult's books.  This is in part due to the narrative structure and in part due to what felt like a barrage of twists at/near the end--including one that felt like a cheat.  Without giving away details, it has to do with a character being known by multiple names.


Regarding the narrative structure--I generally enjoy non-linear story-telling.  Slaughterhouse-Five and Catch-22 are my jam. I've enjoyed the reverse chronology of Pulp Fiction, Memento, and the "backwards" episode of Seinfeld.  But the reverse-chronological structure of A Spark of Light made me feel frustrated from the moment the story began to move backward.  Why?  Cliffhanger.


The story opens upon a women's clinic in Mississippi, where an armed gunman has created an active shooter/hostage situation that has lasted several hours.  The readers are introduced to a cast of characters, quickly learning the state various characters are in (no details, to remain spoiler-free).  The action reaches a crescendo, and it's not clear what the result of the action is.  Annnnnnd.  Readers do not get to find out what the outcome is until the epilogue.  Because the narrative goes back an hour.  Here's what was happening with all these characters an hour ago.  And an hour before that.  As a result of this structure, there is a certain amount of repetitiveness--like, "I already know this"; "I already know what this leads to."


Despite all that, though, I was drawn in.  The characters are complicated and their stories are not necessarily what they seem to be at first glance.  I somewhat understand Picoult's choice to use the reverse chronology, and reveal details backwards.


Picoult through the characters' stories explores the emotional, legal, and medical aspects of abortion, with depth and sensitivity.


Readers who are already inclined to enjoy Picoult's writing have a good chance of enjoying this novel.  Perhaps if you go into it knowing about the early cliffhanger that isn't resolved until the epilogue, you'll relax more than I could and enjoy it more.

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review 2018-12-18 04:49
The author explores the abortion issue
A Spark of Light - Jodi Picoult

A Spark of Light, Jodi Picoult, author: Bahni Turpin, narrator
The story, about an incident at an abortion clinic, immediately draws the reader in because the subject is both timely and heartbreaking. Because of the writing structure, however, it also becomes repetitious and pushes the reader away. The author begins this story at the end and then works backward, telling the story of each person who was trapped in the abortion center at the time George Goddard entered and began terrorizing them. Therefore, the story is repeated over and over in slightly altered ways.

The author examines the abortion issue minutely, in great detail, and she raises many questions. She explores the issues of legal vs. illegal abortions. What is an illegal abortion? Is it different in each state? She tackles pro-choice vs. pro life, and the need for clinics to provide health care for women, clinics like Planned Parenthood. The idea of the need for parental knowledge when a minor elects to have an abortion is raised. In some cases, though, a child is afraid to tell the parent that she has been promiscuous.  Should the cost of an abortion be so prohibitive that only the rich can afford it? What are the many possible reactions of parents when they discover their child has had an abortion or has engaged in pre-marital sex and has been keeping secrets? Can single men raise female children adequately or is there a need for a female guidance to provide certain information about bodily functions? Is killing a human justified in order to protest the killing of a fetus? Does it make sense to mourn the loss of a fetus but not the loss of a full grown human? The characters depicted in the novel allow all of the issues surrounding abortion to be examined.
Dr. Ward is a doctor who performs abortions at the only center that provides abortions in Mississippi. He is very religious, but he believes a woman has a right to choose whether or not she wishes to be pregnant.
Wren McElroy is 16 and in love. She wants to go to the center to obtain birth control so that she and her boyfriend can engage in sex.
Bex is Wren’s aunt. She accompanies Wren to the center because Wren does not feel she can share this with her father, a single parent.
Hugh McElroy, Wren’s father, is a hostage negotiator. He does not know that Wren has gone to obtain birth control with his sister.
Joy works and is a student. She had a relationship with a man who betrayed her and now she is pregnant. She is at the clinic for an abortion. If she has the child she will not be able to finish her studies.
Beth found herself pregnant after a one night stand. She is 17 and her time is running out to obtain a legal abortion. She did not realize the young college student, she thought she would see again, had a false identity. She tries to abort her baby illegally. The laws of Mississippi are not kind to her.
Janine is a pro life activist who is at the center acting as a spy to find out information that will be helpful to the pro life cause.
Izzy is a nurse at the center. She is pregnant and wants to have her child, but she will keep the child a secret from the father.
Olive is a social worker. She is a lesbian who works at the center.
George Goddard is a man who is disappointed with G-d. His daughter had an abortion and he feels he was robbed of a grandchild. He cannot forgive her, and he has planned his revenge.
The author explores each issue that is raised. While the idea of killing an embryo is anathema to some, some feel that killing full grown humans is justified. The story philosophizes and moralizes as the author attempts to explain both sides of the abortion story. Little judgment is passed about possible behavioral choices which might have prevented some of the problems raised. Some of the characters were lonely, some felt unloved. Some felt they were misfits. They all needed guidance.
The justice system, with regards to abortion, is flawed. It is exposed to show its inequality. The judges and prosecutors who determine the fate of those involved are portrayed as arrogant actors who seem to want vengeance and punishment, above all, or else they want the publicity to use as a stepping stone to further a career.
The novel illustrates several parallel points of view: One parent will forgive his child anything, the other will not. One woman is loved, another feels alone and unloved. One is homosexual and wants to end his life. One is happily in a lesbian relationship. One wants a child, another wants to terminate her pregnancy. One is pro-abortion and one is anti-abortion. In some places it is legal and in some it is not. Legality depends on the term of pregnancy and who administers the procedure. Some of the characters are faithful and some are not. There are secrets and lies that threaten the lives of others. The point that I felt was driven home was the different attitudes of the parents. One would save the life of his child, sacrificing his own. The other would sacrifice his child’s life to redeem his own. Religion was a character in the novel, but it was acted out and viewed differently by each character.
If you are expecting a truly balanced discussion of abortion, you will be disappointed, but if you just explore the emotions and thoughts of the characters, it will be a rewarding read. It tackles single parenting, especially in the absence of the mother, it tackles forgiveness for disobedience, it tackles the penalties of poverty, it supports freedom of choice, exposes racism, and attempts to show how far a parent will go to protect his child or protest what a child has done.
In some ways, the author attempted to do too much. Many questions were raised. The ideas of when life begins and how much any life is valued are front and center, but the questions surrounding them remain unresolved by the novel. The author’s personal view is obviously pro-choice and extremely liberal as evidenced by her personal note at the end.  






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review 2018-11-01 20:38
A Spark of Light
A Spark of Light - Jodi Picoult

As a fan of Jodi Picoult for years now, I of course was more than excited to get her latest novel A Spark of Light. While nothing she writes will compare to My Sister’s Keeper (in my humble opinion), one of the things I love most about Jodi is her ability to tackle tough subjects and turn them into a conversation via a fictional story with rich characters.


Her latest novel is centered around the age-old argument of pro-life or pro-choice regarding abortion, as well as women’s rights. 


The description of the book on Goodreads reads:


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 to 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 crosshairs 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.

One of the most fearless writers of our time, Jodi Picoult tackles a complicated issue in this gripping and nuanced novel. How do we balance the rights of pregnant women with the rights of the unborn they carry? What does it mean to be a good parent? A Spark of Light will inspire debate, conversation . . . and, hopefully, understanding.


As a woman and parent myself, I don’t necessarily condone or support the abolishment of abortion; however, I am neither pro-life or pro-choice, but rather pro women’s rights. I believe every woman has a right to choose what happens to her body, even if that involves pregnancy. I also understand that we are talking about a potential human growing inside of her and what rights that future child should have, but I also have the opinion that a baby is not “alive” until it is born, so how can something that hasn’t been born yet be “murdered”? And how can it be murder if it’s just tissue when most abortions occur? Do we allow tissue to have rights? By the time a fetus has a functional brain and fully developed heart and other organs, it is far too late to abort, so allowing the baby to have rights when it is more a baby than tissue makes sense, but do we value those rights over the rights of the woman carrying the potential baby?


I can’t answer these questions, nor can anyone, which is why we have such extreme opinions on both sides. These are the types of issues Jodi Picoult tackles in this novel. Every character is different and comes from a different angle regarding abortion and women’s rights. It is amazing to me how she can take such a controversial topic, include all sides of the argument, and interweave them into a crazy Venn diagram where all the opinions overlap and we are all left wondering, what is the right answer? How can we come to some sort of understanding as a country, and why do we have to resort to violence to be heard and feel understood?


While I don’t think this was her best novel to date (again, I'm biased with My Sister's Keeper), I do love the fact that she wrote this book during such a difficult and pivotal time in our country. Women died for their rights, to be equal to men, and it’s unreal how in 2018 this is still such a hot topic. There are many moments in this novel where she makes some poignant points through various characters’ dialogue, but perhaps the best thing she wrote was included in her author’s note, which reads as follows:


“Honestly, I do not believe we, as a society, will ever agree on this issue. The stakes are too high, and both sides operate from places of unshakeable belief. But I do think that the first step is to talk to each other—and more important, to listen. We may not see eye to eye, but we can respect each other’s opinions and find the truth in them. Perhaps in these honest conversations, instead of demonizing each other, we might see each other as imperfect humans, doing our best”.


One of the only issues I had with the book is there is a character, a background character that had a purpose and was the catalyst of the events of the gunman, but her story was not wrapped up in an appropriate way. Jodi sometimes leaves things to our imagination but this particular character inadvertently started the entire chain of events, yet we don’t know what becomes of her. While that was disappointing, the novel itself is still definitely worth a read. Especially if you’re a woman and especially if you have opinions about abortion and women’s rights. Perhaps reading this book will open your eyes to other perspectives. 


And thanks to Jodi Picoult for once again working her magic and tackling such difficult issues and making her readers do some critical thinking and possibly reevaluate where we stand, or how we treat each other.


Guest Review: Kara Kelly

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review 2018-10-02 17:55
This book is very disturbing and emotional read.
Nineteen Minutes - Jodi Picoult

Right now I've mixed feelings about it. On one hand I loved author's writing style and the story itself, on the other hand, I hated most of the characters. I guess it's because there wasn't much fictional about them, they acted and sounded too much like living breathing people, people prone to making mistakes, people doing things they never should, people treating others the way that was despicable no matter how you look at it.

Story was told from different point of views. All the characters were well developed, even if they weren't so likable. I hated most of them, no scratch that, I only liked one-the detective. That's it, and we didn't get to be in his head as much as I would've liked. But story wasn't about him so he didn't have much to add to it. Still it was good to get his POV now and then.

It's true that bullying is a real problem in many societies and it's also true that everyone who is bullied will have different reaction to it, but the trauma is real. Maybe that's why I hated everyone in this story so much, because I've very strong feelings about bullying and how teachers and parents deal with it. Also, note that we aren't talking about children here but teenagers and that makes it so much worse. By the time you're seventeen you should know right from wrong and it's so sad that so many don't.
Anyhow, the story is well written and if you don't mind sensitive topics, being inside the head of a murderer, and multiple POVs, then sure give it a read. Even though I hated it I still kept reading so you got to give author credit for that.

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review 2018-09-11 02:20
Where There's Smoke & Larger Than Life
Where There's Smoke (Short Story) and Larger Than Life (Novella) - Jodi Picoult,Kathe Mazur

"Where There's Smoke" is a short story, and Larger Than Life is a novella.  These two short pieces are mini-prequels to Leaving Time.  The first features psychic Serenity Jones, while the second is narrated by Alice, the elephant researcher whose disappearance in Leaving Time forms that book's central mystery.


This was a quick, four-hour listen, and was a bit like accessing DVD extras, filling in some background information on the characters in question.  The stories are not essential for readers of Leaving Time--I'm glad I read the novel first, but  I don't think that reading in the opposite order would hurt anyone's enjoyment of either work.

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