A Spark of Light

A Spark of Light

by Jodi Picoult


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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780345544988
Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
Publication date: 10/02/2018
Pages: 384
Sales rank: 320
Product dimensions: 6.30(w) x 9.40(h) x 1.50(d)

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.


Hanover, New Hampshire

Date of Birth:

May 19, 1966

Place of Birth:

Nesconset, Long Island, NY


A.B. in Creative Writing, Princeton University; M.A. in Education, Harvard University

Reading Group Guide

1. The story is narrated from the points of view of ten different characters. Why do you think the author chose to include so many different perspectives? Was there a voice that you connected to most strongly? Did you have difficulty connecting with any characters?

2. Regardless of their feelings on the issue of abortion, many characters are preoccupied with being a good parent. Why do you think it means to be a good parent?

3. Initially, Joy and Janine seem to stand on opposite sides of the pro-life/pro-choice debate. By the end, do you think they have found common ground? Do you understand where each one is coming from? Is it possible to form a connection with someone with opposing viewpoints and still maintain a commitment to one’s own beliefs?

4. At one point, Rachel, the employee who escaped from the Center, accuses Allen and his fellow protestors of being responsible for the hostage crisis situation: “If people like you didn’t spout the bullshit you do, people like him wouldn’t exist.” Is this a fair accusation? Is there a point at which one does not have the right to voice one’s beliefs? If so, where should that line be drawn?

5. Did your feelings about the issue of abortion evolve during the reading of this novel, and, if so, how?

6. By the end of the book, we discover that these characters’ lives are interwoven in more ways than one and that each individual has a deeper story than we expected. Were you surprised by any of the interconnections? Which twist struck you the most strongly?

7. Did anything about Jodi’s research surprise you? What did you learn?

8. Did Jodi’s Author Note change your reading experience at all?

9. A Spark of Light is different than the traditional novel structure. How did you feel about the events of the story unfolding backwards? Did this structure affect your reading experience?

Customer Reviews

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A Spark of Light (B&N Exclusive Edition) 3.8 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 69 reviews.
Anonymous 3 months ago
Riveting and timely!
cloggiedownunder 4 months ago
A Spark of Light is the twenty-third novel by popular American author, Jodi Picoult. In Jackson, Mississippi, a women’s clinic that provides, amongst other services, abortions is targeted daily by pro-life campaigners. They harass the staff and the clients as they enter and leave. But today is different: a gunman has entered the building and begun shooting. Trained police hostage negotiator, Detective Lieutenant Hugh McElroy is soon on the scene to talk to the gunman, but within minutes learns that his daughter, Wren and his sister, Bex are inside the clinic along with other innocent hostages. As he tries to reason with the shooter, those inside struggle to help the injured without further enraging their captor. The day’s events, as they unfold over ten hours, are told in reverse, with an epilogue resolving the dramatic end of the first chapter. As the story follows the path that directs each character to their destiny at the Clinic, their thoughts and dialogue give the reader a deep appreciation of their nature, their challenges, their passions. The shooter’s motivation and the series of events that leads up to his shocking actions illustrates how easily misunderstanding, desperation, a deficit of compassion and happenstance together can end in tragedy. Picoult never hesitates to tackle controversial topics, nor does she in this latest work. The main issue is, of course, abortion, but many other related topics feature: the legal obstacles, the reason doctors and nurses work in these clinics, the for and against arguments, the situations where abortion seems appropriate, the fallacies that are spouted by pro-lifers, inequity between laws that protect the foetus and those protecting the mother, the legal inconsistencies between states, the import of illegal abortion drugs from China, and even the semantics surrounding the issue. While many will feel that her treatment of the topic is balanced, Picoult’s latest novel is bound to polarise readers. The depth of her research is apparent and she backs it up with an extensive bibliography. In the Author’s Note, Picoult gives a succinct quote regards pro-lifer activities from a woman who has had an abortion: “I don’t need people shaming me because of a choice that already hurt my heart to have to make.” Picoult gives the reader yet another informative, insightful and thought-provoking read. This unbiased review is from an uncorrected proof copy provided by Allen & Unwin.
Anonymous 19 days ago
Thin plot. Not a book to entertain, just advance agenda. Disappointing.
Anonymous 3 months ago
Anonymous 10 days ago
I've read every one of Jodi Picoult's books and this is her most disappointing. The reverse timeline and embedded storylines were really difficult to follow and the end was very predictable. Definitely not the book to start with if you've never read her work. I will never give up reading her books, I'm just disappointed I have to wait so long for another good one.
Anonymous 11 days ago
Abrupt ending... Really needed more closure! So unsatisfying.
Anonymous 14 days ago
Although the topic was excellent and well written, I was confused by the way it was presented. The back and forth in time was overwhelming and irritating.
Anonymous 29 days ago
This book was very good.
Anonymous 3 months ago
I have read most of Jodi Picolt books because she is one of my favorite authors. This one really made me think.
bookaholique 3 months ago
Here is what I like about Jodi Picoult's writing. She takes a topic - in this case abortion - and then creates a story with characters that represent all sides of the debate on that topic. I frequently end her novels with at least a better understanding of opinions that differ from mine. She writes with intelligence and compassion. I actually ended up liking all the characters in this story - even the "bad guy". This has happened to me before with her writing. The people in this book all have legitimate points of view. There is a saying that came to mind when I read this story - just because I don't agree, that doesn't make me right. A thought provoking page turner. I received this book from Random House - Ballantine via Netgally. My thanks to both.
CCinME 13 hours ago
As a huge Jodi Piccoult fan I knew this book was tackling another timely and controversial topic. What I wasn't prepared for was the herky-jerky narration which made the story very choppy and sometimes hard to follow. There was no rhythm to the story also making it hard to stay invested. The book opens with the denouement and went downhill from there. Told in a reverse timeline, it fails to come together into a cohesive story.
trabri89 2 days ago
Disappointing. After reading some of her other books like 19 minutes where you could just feel the emotions and the tragedy. I was really lookng forward to this story when I saw the topic but the story was slow and I was disappointed.
weschmuck 2 days ago
Why do people's "reviews" turn into book reports and a complete summary of the book!?
Anonymous 3 days ago
Being a total picoult fan, this book was very disappointing. I have read her previous books multiple times but this one will not be reread. It felt like undeveloped characters and plot. The ending was just abruptly there. Because it is a picoult it should be read but don't expect great things.
Anonymous 3 days ago
This was another great work by Jodi Picoult. Really makes you think and is very moving. Highly recommend.
Anonymous 4 days ago
Not one of her best books. Abrupt ending. Thin storyline. Very disappointed.
Valerian70 13 days ago
This is a rather surprising topic for a novel and one that is particularly charged in certain Countries. Whether to be Pro-Choice or Pro-Life there is a miasma of belief in between the two states but this book deals, ultimately, with the extremes - the staunch Pro-Life protester who pickets at the Clinics and harasses the Health Care Providers and those who work in the clinics or need their services. What I found exceptional about the book is that it does not come down on one side or the other. Everybody referenced in the tale is a Human Being and treated as such, no matter what their belief. That said though, there is more empathy from the author for those performing the procedures and undergoing them than there is for those telling them they are murderers. What it did for me was allow me to see the protesters as people and to understand, a little, where they are coming from. The hardest thing to get to grips with in this story is, strangely, not the subject matter. It is the time hopping that goes on. I understand working from the latter sections of the siege in the clinic and then working backwards. However, the author has chosen to jump from events minutes before the shooter enters the clinic, to halfway through the siege and then back to weeks before. It does make it difficult to build the timeline in your head properly and I did get turned around sometimes as to where in the timeline we actually where. I liked the fact that the "products of conception" where not glossed over but the truth of the procedure was kept within the book - the medical truth that is devoid of emotion and religion. I also learnt a lot about attitudes in America towards the decision of a woman to terminate her pregnancy; both from the woman making the decision, those who support her through and those who condemn her. This does mean that I have taken my pre-conceived (pun NOT intended) notions in to this story and may have interpreted passages in a different way to those who bewlieve the polar opposite to me. The biggest issue I had with the book is that we never find out what happens to Beth. She is perhaps the biggest loser in the whole book and as the siege draws to an end she is the one that stands to lose not only her liberty but her family as well. We presume that Bex survives, we presume that Dr Walsh survives, but we don't know. We don;t know how Izzy's situation resolves - does she stick with Parker (to be fair he does seem to genuinely care and not give a toss about their societal differences) or does she destroy the one good thing in her life after her job? Too many loose ends that I would have liked tieing up - maybe in the way they do at the end of films based on Real Life. This is, in many ways, an ideal Book Club choice but be ready for arguments that will last long in to the night and will not all be to do with the book. That said I read this in stave format through The Pigeonhole where you have the opportunity to discuss the story as you go along with other readers. By the end of the first section I stepped away from this as I could see the potential for clashes. I found it to be an emotive read that made me question my own prejudices, I also found myself caring about the disparate characters in the book and their particular reasons for being in that place at that time. THIS IS AN HONEST AND UNBIASED REVIEW OF A COPY OF THIS BOOK RECEIVED VIA THE PIGEONHOLE.
Celticlady1953KK 13 days ago
As a fan of Jodi Picoult for years now, I of course was more than excited to get her latest novel A Spark of Light. While nothing she writes will compare to My Sister’s Keeper (in my humble opinion), one of the things I love most about Jodi is her ability to tackle tough subjects and turn them into a conversation via a fictional story with rich characters. Her latest novel is centered around the age-old argument of pro-life or pro-choice regarding abortion, as well as women’s rights. The description of the book on Goodreads reads: 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. As a woman and parent myself, I don’t necessarily condone or support the abolishment of abortion; however, I am neither pro-life or pro-choice, but rather pro women’s rights. I believe every woman has a right to choose what happens to her body, even if that involves pregnancy. I also understand that we are talking about a potential human growing inside of her and what rights that future child should have, but I also have the opinion that a baby is not “alive” until it is born, so how can something that hasn’t been born yet be “murdered”? And how can it be murder if it’s just tissue when most abortions occur? Do we allow tissue to have rights? By the time a fetus has a functional brain and fully developed heart and other organs, it is far too late to abort, so allowing the baby to have rights when it is more a baby than tissue makes sense, but do we value those rights over the rights of the woman carrying the potential baby? I can’t answer these questions, nor can anyone, which is why we have such extreme opinions on both sides. These are the types of issues Jodi Picoult tackles in this novel. Every character is different and comes from a different angle regarding abortion and women’s rights.
SaraOxo 16 days ago
A Spark of Light by Jodi Picolt a five-star read that will make you think. I have been a huge fan of this author for a long time, and usually buy the paperback and then once I’ve read it, it goes to my mum who will pass it to my aunt and will pass it to my nanna, but this time I couldn’t wait I had to get the ebook as soon as I could, that being said I will buy the paperback once I see it so we can keep the tradition alive. That being said I don’t know if this one will be as popular with them all as the others we have read, as this author has a great talent for writing subjects that divide opinion, she isn’t one to shy away from difficult and complex subjects and this is a great example, balancing the pro-life and pro-choice debate and the story is fast paced and from many different points of view which can get a little confusing at first but keep with it as it such a great way telling the story, you will see people who shouldn’t get along thrown together and have to face the future together and then people who love each other thrown apart. Wren may be the main character in this story as she has a powerful story to tell, but there are so many other voices no matter which side of the fence you stand on this will challenge your views in the best was possible. The only negative I could find was that it ended to soon, I was so into reading it that it ended before I even realised I was near the end. What a powerful and compelling read this is, I can’t wait to hold the paperback in my hands for a re-read as I am sure I will be reading it several times and finding new details in ever read.
Anonymous 16 days ago
I have read all of Picoult’s books. This felt rushed and poorly planned. The best thing about her previous writings is that you couldn’t tell which side she was on. With this, there is an obvious agenda. Incredibly disappointed in my favorite author.
Anonymous 16 days ago
I love Jodi Picoult books .... But this one really left me feeling let down down. The writing is great as expected. I even liked the backwards timeline... However, it just up and ends? I am left wondering the fate of all the characters (and there are A LOT of them in this book) Really bummed. I was looking forward to finding out what happens with everyone....
Anonymous 16 days ago
Written gracefully & medically accurate, this is a book about so much more than abortion. It's worth it to read the thoughts written at the end of the book, as they offer statistics, facts, first-hand knowledge, and viable ideas for both pro-choicers AND for pro-lifers.
Anonymous 16 days ago
I enjoyed this book. It was very informative. The timeline goes background, which was not my favorite. It also left a lot of questions for me with all the characters. I found, myself wanting to know more about each characters life/ending.
Dee14 17 days ago
Thought provoking tale of pro life vs choice. Great for Book club
Theresa B 17 days ago
Jodi Picoult is one of my go-to authors.  I love how she takes relevant, timely and often controversial issues and shows them from the perspectives of many people on different sides of the issue. A Spark of Light is about abortion and a woman's right to choose. Both the gunman and the hostage negotiator are struggling with their teenage daughters growing up.  Both of their daughters have been to the clinic.  We don't know Hugh, the hostage negotiator's position on abortion, but we know that when his college girlfriend got pregnant, she had the baby and derailed his dreams of becoming an astronaut and we know he wants to save his daughter. Jodi Picoult allows us to go inside the mind of an abortion activist who has gone undercover in the clinic on the day the hostages are taken to try to get some incriminating information about the clinic.  We also go inside the mind of a woman who was raised in foster care and is struggling to put herself through college when she gets pregnant.  And we get inside the head of the nurse, who is pregnant herself and was raised in poverty but now has a devoted boyfriend from a different background and she lacks the confidence to believe he could love her.  We get to see the pain that each of these women is in as they come to grips with their situation. We also get to understand the position of the doctor, who is a Christian, but whose mother died having an illegal abortion.  I found his perspective to be the most interesting and the most different and things that I had never thought of before.  At the end of the book, he takes one of the pro-life activists out for breakfast and they have a talk and he explains his position. I think this is an important book.  It's easy to be on the side we are on, it's more difficult to understand someone else's perspective but we need to be able to do that.  So often I feel that our country is becoming more and more divided.  Twenty-four hour news and the de-personalization of social media and I find myself angry with people that I have been friends with for thirty years because they don't understand my side of things or because they don't agree with me.  Politics and religion were always two things we didn't talk about in polite company, yet now we seem to feel free to put those things on social media and it is dividing us more and more.  I am guilty of it myself.  I feel strongly about things and I want my voice heard.  I think it's ok to use social media as a political platform, as long as you are open to the perspectives of other people.  That is what I love about Jodi Picoult's books, she makes it easy to understand the perspectives of other people.