A Spark of Light or the Kiss of Death?

Bestselling author, Jodi Picoult has a plot formula that works for her. In each of her books, she tackles a specific controversial issue through the eyes of characters who find themselves in the cross-hairs of a given moral dilemma.


Her latest novel is no exception.  In Picoult’s SPARK OF LIGHT, characters grapple with the repercussions of abortion on-demand.

First, let me just put this out there: I am a huge fan of Jodi Picoult. I’ve read every book the author has ever published, I own most of them, and I have gifted many of her titles to friends and loved ones over the years.

But for this reader, A SPARK OF LIGHT fizzled fast.

Title is linked to Amazon and there are no spoilers ahead. (It already stinks enough to add any additional spoilage.)

A SPARK OF LIGHT by Jodi Picoult, Ballantine Books, New York. October 2018. 369 pages.

One day, in a women’s clinic in Mississippi, worlds begin to collide.

An armed gunman who is distraught because his daughter has had an abortion storms the orange building (a building that is described as a beacon of hope for all 51Jk5RniUIL._SX327_BO1,204,203,200_women…subtext: all except the Christian nuts, that is.)

Inside the building, are patients, a doctor, a nurse, and even an under-cover right-to-lifer gathering primary research.

The story unfolds backwards, hour by hour, over the course of one single day. So the reader opens the book and is thrust into the denouement and must piece together the who and what and why and how from there.

One of the patients, a fifteen-year-old girl whose aunt has brought her to the clinic to get birth control, has attracted the attention of the madman/shooter.

Seems she let a minor detail slip to the gunman–her father is the hostage negotiator/police detective on the scene.

The aunt is shot.

And the stakes go up.

Or they would, if the story hadn’t been told backwards.

Same for the other many characters, all of whom fell flat for me. When you get one-hundred pages into a 369 page book and you just don’t care about anyone, well, this book has gone from page turner to sleep inducer.

And it would have induced sleep had the author not broken the fourth-wall time and time again by using a heavy hand to assert how evil white people are–especially white men AND by making the Christian characters cliche villains whose actions may serve their stony God but pretty much tell everyone else to go to hell.

It’s bad enough that the shooter was described as a single-father who used to read his daughter bedtime stories from the Bible instead of fairy tales because she needed to understand that love was about sacrifice.

But then I got to this passage about the pro-life protesters, I knew I was about done. Quick set-up. Louie is an African American doctor who became an abortionist because his mama went to a voodoo lady back in the day after her white, married lover impregnated her. Mama died as blood oozed out from between her legs.

Louie believed that those white men with their signs and slogans were not really there for the unborn, but there for the women who carried them. They couldn’t control women’s sexual independence. To them, this was the next best thing. (58)

Yeah, and it gets worse from there. And it’s hammered in the reader’s face over and over again.

No doubt Jodi Picoult is a New England liberal and champagne socialist. You know, maybe she should try living on the wrong side of the tracks like the rest of us. She might see things a bit differently.

Or not.

Given that as part of her research, Picoult describes in the Author’s Note how she observed a number of abortions, including one done at 15 weeks, I wouldn’t bet the double-wide trailer on it. She reports that the products of the early abortions didn’t suggest “dead baby,” but she could see baby parts in the latter.

She also thanked an entire list of women who shouted their abortions (thanks, Oprah, for making this a thing) to her as part of her research–in most cases, providing their first and last names.

You know, after reading through this rogue’s gallery, I’m kind of surprised the book didn’t come wrapped in one of those ubiquitous “pussy hats” from the women’s march of 2017.

There really is no shame anymore.

And that’s a shame.

Foxy Rating Scale:

One out of Five Foxes


Skip this one, friends. I’m thankful I checked it out from the library and didn’t sink the hardback list price of $28.99 into this dark hole. Here’s hoping Ms. Picoult gets off her soap box and pens a more engaging novel next time.


Susan J. Anderson

Foxy Writer Chick

2 thoughts on “A Spark of Light or the Kiss of Death?

  1. Dear Ms. Anderson,

    I read your blog post and found your review and analysis of Jodi Picoult’s Spark of Light really interesting. I am doing an author study on Jodi Picoult for my senior project, and while I haven’t read Spark of Light yet, I have read a couple of her other books. I understand you are well-versed in Picoult’s writing, and if you are available, I would love to interview you about her writing and novels. Feel free to contact me through my provided email.

    Thank you so much,

    Liked by 1 person

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