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Saturday, April 24, 2021

Sunday Synopsis

A Spark of LightA Spark of Light by Jodi Picoult
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The book is introduced online this way: A powerful and provocative new novel about ordinary lives that intersect during a heart-stopping crisis.

This is true. The place where this crisis occurs is a clinic that provides abortions as well as other women's services. The story is set in Mississippi. As of this writing, Mississippi requires a licensed doctor to perform abortions, but providers, both the individual or the institution may choose not to participate. Counseling for the pregnant woman is mandatory, as is parental consent, lab work, and an ultrasound in which the mother may choose whether or not to hear the baby's heartbeat. A woman must wait 24 hours after counseling to have the procedure. Abortions are illegal after 16 weeks unless the mother's health is in danger. This requires a court order.  Partial birth abortions are banned. Surgical and medication (chemical) abortions are provided as follows: Medication abortion is offered for women who are at 11 weeks' gestation or less. A woman may instead choose the surgical abortion which can be performed up to 16 weeks' pregnant. Apparently, after the first trimester, the procedure involves extra steps and takes a bit longer.

That being said, this isn't just a story about abortion. As usual, Jodi Picoult tackles a controversial issue attempting to demonstrate the many different theories and reasons for a person's beliefs. Although she takes care not to impose her opinion, I think it is quite clear.

There is a varied cast of characters, but only a few that you feel like you get to know very well. There is Hugh, the hostage negotiator who doesn't realize right away that his sister and daughter are in the clinic when it is assaulted. Several characters who aren't seeking abortions are at the clinic during the attack. You learn their back stories to show why they are there. There is a pregnant nurse, a woman seeking an abortion, a woman pretending to want an abortion but is actually a protester. You meet a women who is at the hospital after she had been to the clinic, the clinic owner, the doctor. You think you will dislike a certain character, but you'll find out you actually like the character.

A few things I didn't like about the story... First, the story starts near the end of the stand-off and goes back hour by hour showing what led up to the attack. I prefer stories to be told chronologically. Some of the stories don't make sense until you know the whole backstory. I also didn't like the ending. The book just ends. We don't find out what happened to all of the characters. I did like how she cleverly connected the characters. But I hate when I don't get a resolution.

I did have trouble reading this book just before bed for two reasons: 1. I wanted to keep reading to find out what happens next. 2. It was too stimulating for bedtime reading. It made me think. That's a good thing, but not right before bed. And although it was long, I read it fairly quickly. Picoult is great at creating suspense and building characters, even a sympathetic bad guy. Great book.

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