Monday, November 5, 2018

A Spark of Light (Jodi Picoult)

I've been a big fan of the great Jodi Picoult since the beginning and always look forward to her books with much excitement. Most of her novels have attained well-earned fours and fives on this site, but there have been some that I've liked less (I'm looking at you Sing You Home!). For me, A Spark of Light falls squarely in the middle of the pack.

As Picoult fans know, she often takes on a hot button issue in her books -- this time, it's abortion. Hugh McElroy is called to the scene of a hostage situation at an abortion clinic; the situation gets even more devastating for Hugh when he finds out that his teenage daughter is in there. He needs to put his questions aside about why she is there in the first place in order to save her and all the other people inside. What is interesting about A Spark of Light is that it is told backwards in time. Some reviewers have commented that, for them, it didn't add anything to the plot to do that, but for me, it did. Knowing what was going to happen to each character first made everything that came before much more powerful.

What didn't work for me was the preachy tone of the book. It's obviously fine for an author to take a side in his or her own work, but it needs to be woven naturally into the story. It's jarring as a reader for the narrative to abruptly stop for characters to have a 3-page conversation about the issue. For that reason, I can't give my usual 4 or 5 to Picoult's latest.