a close up on the book

In Jodi Picoult’s “A Spark of Light,” hostage negotiator Hugh McElroy is called in to diffuse a hostage situation at the only abortion clinic in Mississippi. He finds out, to his dismay, that his daughter is inside the clinic and is being held hostage. McElroy’s sister is also in the clinic and is injured; though their reason for being there is different than you might think and doesn’t become clear right away.

As much as the book centers around an ideological fight, the hostage-taker is not so different than McElroy. Both men enter into a battle between two fathers trying to protect their daughters.

Told in reverse chronological order, the entire book focuses on 12 hours of one day; of the shooting, of what led to it, of how it ended and everything in between.

While the book does not center around religion, religion is, of course, brought up when discussing the topic of abortion. In Judaism, the fetus is not considered fully formed at the time of conception. This notion is different from other religions that believe that personhood occurs at the moment of conception.

While “A Spark of Light” is a work of fiction, the issues around which it centers are very much real and are very much alive in our current political climate. And while the characters are fictional, the choices they have to make, and the choices they made to get to that point, are all too real. We might know how we feel about this issue, but in that moment when we’re faced with that decision, where we fall may surprise us almost as much as where we ultimately land.

The idea of personhood is brought into question. And it made me wonder: Can we avenge the death of a fetus by killing the person responsible for preventing it from becoming a fully-fledged human being? And if the host of that fetus is the ultimate decision-maker, what rights does the fetus have in comparison to the mother?

I’ve always been a fan of Jodi Picoult’s, and this book did not disappoint. The book was enthralling and page turning. The subject matter might not be for everyone, but the character development is sure to suck you in. The book is well-researched and well-thought out. Do the author’s personal views come out? Yes, but less in the story and more in the afterword of the book.

I don’t think it matters where you fall into the debate; whether you are Pro-Choice or Pro-Life, you should read this book. It certainly gave me a lot to think about, and it can be a good starting place for conversation.

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