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A Spark of Light
Cover of A Spark of Light
A Spark of Light
A Novel
#1 NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER • The author of Small Great Things returns with a powerful and provocative new novel about ordinary lives that intersect during a heart-stopping crisis."Picoult at her...
#1 NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER • The author of Small Great Things returns with a powerful and provocative new novel about ordinary lives that intersect during a heart-stopping crisis."Picoult at her...
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  • #1 NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER The author of Small Great Things returns with a powerful and provocative new novel about ordinary lives that intersect during a heart-stopping crisis.
    "Picoult at her fearless best . . . Timely, balanced and certain to inspire debate."—The Washington Post
    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.
    Praise for A Spark of Light
    "This is Jodi Picoult at her best: tackling an emotional hot-button issue and putting a human face on it."People

    "Told backward and hour by hour, Jodi Picoult's compelling narrative deftly explores controversial social issues."Us Weekly

Excerpts-

  • From the book The Center squatted on the corner of Juniper and Montfort behind a wrought-iron gate, like an old bulldog used to guarding its territory. At one point, there had been many like it in Mississippi— nondescript, unassuming buildings where services were provided and needs were met. Then came the restrictions that were designed to make these places go away: The halls had to be wide enough to accommodate two passing gurneys; any clinic where that wasn't the case had to shut down or spend thousands on reconstruction. The doctors had to have admitting privileges at local hospitals—even though most were from out of state and couldn't secure them—or the clinics where they practiced risked closing, too. One by one the clinics shuttered their windows and boarded up their doors. Now, the Center was a unicorn—a small rectangle of a structure painted a fluorescent, flagrant orange, like a flag to those who had traveled hundreds of miles to find it. It was the color of safety; the color of warning. It said: I'm here if you need me. It said, Do what you want to me; I'm not going.

    The Center had suffered scars from the cuts of politicians and the barbs of protesters. It had licked its wounds and healed. At one point it had been called the Center for Women and Reproductive Health. But there were those who believed if you do not name a thing, it ceases to exist, and so its title was amputated, like a war injury. But still, it survived. First it became the Center for Women. And then, just: the Center.

    The label fit. The Center was the calm in the middle of a storm of ideology. It was the sun of a universe of women who had run out of time and had run out of choices, who needed a beacon to look up to.

    And like other things that shine so hot, it had a magnetic pull. Those in need found it the lodestone for their navigation. Those who despised it could not look away.

    Today, Wren McElroy thought, was not a good day to die. She knew that other fifteen-year-old girls romanticized the idea of dying for love, but Wren had read Romeo and Juliet last year in eighth-grade English and didn't see the magic in waking up in a crypt beside your boyfriend, and then plunging his dagger into your own ribs. And Twilight—forget it. She had listened to teachers paint the stories of heroes whose tragic deaths somehow enlarged their lives rather than shrinking them. When Wren was six, her grandmother had died in her sleep. Strangers had said over and over that dying in your sleep was a blessing, but as she stared at her nana, waxen white in the open coffin, she didn't understand why it was a gift. What if her grandmother had gone to bed the night before thinking, In the morning, I'll water that orchid. In the morning, I'll read the rest of that novel. I'll call my son. So much left unfinished. No, there was just no way dying could be spun into a good thing.

    Her grandmother was the only dead person Wren had ever seen, until two hours ago. Now, she could tell you what dying looked like, as opposed to just dead. One minute, Olive had been there, staring so fierce at Wren—as if she could hold on to the world if her eyes stayed open—and then, in a beat, those eyes stopped being windows and became mirrors, and Wren saw only a reflection of her own panic.

    She didn't want to look at Olive anymore, but she did. The dead woman was lying down like she was taking a nap, a couch cushion under her head. Olive's shirt was soaked with blood, but had ridden up on the side, revealing her ribs and waist. Her skin was pale on top and then lavender, with a thin line of deep violet where her back...

About the Author-

  • Jodi Picoult is the #1 New York Times bestselling author of twenty-three novels, including Small Great Things, Leaving Time, The Storyteller, Lone Wolf, Sing You Home, House Rules, Handle with Care, Change of Heart, Nineteen Minutes, and My Sister's Keeper. She is also the author, with daughter Samantha van Leer, of two young adult novels, Between the Lines and Off the Page. Picoult lives in New Hampshire.

Reviews-

  • Library Journal

    May 15, 2018

    The author of nine consecutive No. 1 New York Times best sellers, Picoult returns with topical fiction involving a gunman taking hostages at a women's reproductive health services clinic. What's especially tough for Hugh McElroy, the police hostage negotiator, is that daughter Wren is inside. With a focus on characters, from the medical staff to the patients to the gunman himself.

    Copyright 2018 Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

  • Kirkus

    August 1, 2018
    A day at a Mississippi abortion clinic unfurls backward as a self-appointed avenging angel wreaks havoc.Picoult's latest takes the unusual tack of proceeding in reverse. At 5 p.m., the Center, Mississippi's last remaining abortion clinic, is awash in blood as Hugh McElroy, a Jackson police negotiator, is still bargaining with George Goddard, the deranged gunman who has occupied the Center for hours. Five hostages have been released, two gravely wounded: Hugh's sister, Bex, and Dr. Louie Ward, the Center's surgeon (whom, according to her author's note, Picoult based on the outspoken abortion provider Dr. Willie Parker). One person inside is dead, and Hugh is still waiting for word of his teenage daughter, Wren, who had gone to the Center for a prescription for birth control pills, accompanied by her aunt Bex. As the day moves backward, several voices represent a socio-economic cross-section of the South; a few are on the front lines of the anti-abortion vs. abortion-rights war--but most are merely seeking basic women's health care. Olive, 68, is at the Center for a second opinion; Janine, an anti-abortion activist, is there to spy; Joy is seeking an abortion; and Izzy is pregnant and conflicted. George wants revenge--his daughter recently had an abortion. A third father-daughter story runs parallel to the hostage crisis: A teenager named Beth, hospitalized for severe bleeding, is being prosecuted for murder after having taken abortifacient drugs she'd ordered online at 16 weeks pregnant. At times, Picoult defaults to her habitual sentimentality, particularly in describing the ties that bind Hugh, Wren, and Bex. This novel is unflinching, however, in forcing readers to witness the gory consequences of a mass shooting, not to mention the graphic details of abortions at various stages of gestation and the draconian burdens states like Mississippi have placed on a supposed constitutional right. For Dr. Ward, an African-American, "the politics of abortion" have "so much in common with the politics of racism." The Times Arrow- or Benjamin Button-like backward structure adds little except for those ironic tinges hindsight always provides.Novels such as this extensively researched and passionate polemic are not necessarily art, but, like Sinclair Lewis' The Jungle, they are necessary.

    COPYRIGHT(2018) Kirkus Reviews, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

  • Publisher's Weekly

    August 20, 2018
    Drama abounds in Picoult’s latest issue-driven novel (following Small Great Things) in which a hostage crisis in a women’s health center/abortion clinic provides a look at a volatile subject. George Goddard, a lone gunman seeking revenge for his daughter’s abortion, busts into the clinic in Jackson, Miss., killing and wounding several staff and patients. He holds a handful of them hostage, including Wren and Bex, the 15-year-old daughter and adult sister of Hugh McElroy, the police hostage negotiator assigned to the crisis. Meanwhile, Beth, a teenager in a hospital in Oxford, Miss., whose attempts to have a legal abortion were thwarted, takes medication to abort her 16-week-old fetus and nearly dies from blood loss. She is brought to a hospital and her life is saved, but the state prosecutor’s office accuses her of murder upon finding out the reasons for her condition. Picoult’s extensive research shines throughout, but the book’s reverse chronological structure interferes with the complicated back stories, which include the gunman’s reasons for going on a rampage; a doctor’s path to performing abortions; why a pro-life believer goes undercover to the clinic to obtain damaging evidence; Beth’s thwarted attempts to get a legal abortion; and the relationship between Wren, Bex, and Hugh. Nevertheless, this is a powerful story that brings clarity to the history of abortion and investigates the voices on both sides of the issue.

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