Picoult delivers another riveting yarn about a hot-button issue ... Even though she’s rewinding the story, Picoult manages to keep the tension high as we learn about the characters’ personalities and situations. And there’s a surprising reveal in the final pages that readers will likely find provocative. Picoult explores both sides of the abortion debate in this carefully crafted, utterly gripping tale, which acknowledges that there are no easy answers.
No Picoult story is complete without characters representing both sides of a polarizing issue, something she has done for decades. Her 2011 tome Sing You Home was criticized for turning her characters on the religious right into caricatures, but she has clearly taken the comments to heart. Those in the antiabortion faction in A Spark of Light are as three-dimensional as those on the other side ... imbuing her characters — male and female, antiabortion and abortion rights advocates — with more shades of gray than a Pantone color wheel. Timely, balanced and certain to inspire debate, A Spark of Light is Picoult at her fearless best.
Picoult has never shied away from controversial topics in her fiction, from school shootings to the Holocaust to gay rights to racism. She flies her liberal flag proudly. But this is by far her most blatantly political novel, and while she tries to get inside the heads of her characters to explore both sides of the pro-choice/pro-life debate, it’s obvious where her sympathies lie ... It’s an uncomfortable topic no matter your personal beliefs, and A Spark of Light is an uncomfortable, disturbing read, which may be Picoult’s intent. It’s hard to say: That’s a central problem with a novel like this, which alternately keeps you riveted and repulsed. A breathless thriller about an abortion clinic shooting? The intention, depending on your politics, may be admirable. The execution made me somewhat queasy ... Polemic or page-turner? Picoult wants to have it both ways, with mixed results. But give her points for daring to take on a volatile, politically charged topic in deeply divided times and trying to humanize it.