Ballantine Books, 2018
Audience: Adults, Older Teens
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.
Both teens and adults will enjoy A Spark of Light, because it has characters of both ages. In fact, one of my favorite perspectives to read was from the teenage girl named Wren.
Picoult tells this story backwards, so the first chapter begins at 5 PM and works it way backward to breakfast. Personally, I did not like this technique at all. Tension did not build as I read. Instead, I wanted to skip parts that I already knew or that were mundane, but some of the background information about the characters' lives was mixed in with the dull details, so I couldn't. It did end with an epilogue at 6 PM, but by the time I got there, I had forgotten what happened at 5 PM, so I had to go back and reread the first chapter to connect the dots and figure out which characters had died and which had been ok.
Also, the topic of abortion was incredibly difficult to read about. However, I thought that the author did an excellent job of showing both sides' opinions and perspectives in an unbiased manner. Abortion is an issue that people tend to feel passionately about and can be upsetting, so I think the fact that Picoult showed the various opinions in such a way that I could not tell which side she personally chose was impressive.
Overall, it wasn't perfect, but I did enjoy reading it.