Jodi Picoult – A Spark of Light

jodi-picoult-a-spark-of-light
Jodi Picoult – A Spark of light

An ordinary day at the so called Center in Jackson, Mississippi. Women come there to get information about how to prevent a pregnancy, others to end an unwelcome one. Protesters outside belong to the everyday work as well as security measures before getting inside. But on this sunny days, things go wrong when a man with a gun walks in to revenge the grand-child he never had. How can these women dare to decide on another person’s life? George Goddard will teach them a lesson. Outside, Hugh McElroy will try everything to keep the number of victims low, especially since his sister and daughter are in the Center.

When I started the novel, I was fairly astonished even before getting to the first chapter: the novel is told from the end and starts in the late afternoon of that day. This is quite an interesting idea and admittedly I had some doubts if this might actually work out. But it does and suspense is not diminished at all, since there is still a lot to be revealed even when going through the story the wrong way around.

I read other novels of Jodi Picoult before and again, the author did completely fulfil my expectations. She once more chose a highly controversial topic to which you cannot find an easy solution. The women as well as the doctors who are in the Center at the moment the shooter enters all have their individual stories that led them there: a pro-life activist in disguise, a nurse who doubts her boyfriend’s motivation of marrying her and who wants to offer him the possibility of going on in life without her, another young woman who herself had to grow up knowing how it feels if you are not loved and only a burden, a girl who just wants to get a pill – you don’t feel like they didn’t think about what they do before they decided to go to the Center on that day. But the situation between life and death – their life and death – puts the decision they had taken to another test. Especially poignant is the constellation of having the detective in charge’s daughter in the clinic. This adds another very personal aspect to the whole story.

It is not a story about pro-life vs. abortion advocates. Even though this is the initial starting point, Picoult focuses on the individual characters and their respective situation. Neither does she put their decision to the test nor excuse any decision taken. It could have been another connecting element that brings those characters together, what they experience is the moment in life where all could be over and when you inevitably have to question yourself about what is important for you and if it has been worth living. I really like her style of wiring and particularly the characters she creates, thus for me, another remarkable novel not to be missed.

R.O. Kwon – The Incendiaries

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R.O. Kwon – The Incendiaries

When Will comes to Edwards University at Noxhurst, he has a lot of things to hide from his fellow student: he does not come from a prestigious background, quite the opposite with his mother an addict and his father bullying the family, he is ashamed of his constant lack of money and the fact that he left a Christian college since he lost his faith is also something he’d rather keep for himself. When he meets Phoebe, he immediately falls for the girl of Korean descent. Soon they cannot live one without the other, but they both keep some things for themselves. Phoebe, too, has things to hide but the feeling of having to share them is growing inside her. It is John Leal and his group where she feels confident enough to talk about her past. But the enigmatic leader is not just after the well-being of his disciples and it does not take too long until he comes between Will and Phoebe.

R.O. Kwon’s debut is a rather short read which nevertheless tackles quite a number of very relevant topics: love and loss, faith and cult, abuse and how to deal with it and last but not least abortion. A lot of issues for such a novel and thus, for my liking, some were treated a bit too superficially and I would have preferred less.

In the centre of the novel, we have the two protagonists Phoebe and Will who, at the first glance, couldn’t hardly be more different than they are. But when looking closer at them, it is obvious what brings them together: as children and teenagers, they had a kind of constant in their lives which gave them orientation and lead them. For Phoebe, it was music, for Will, his Christian believe. When they grew older and more independent, they lost that fixed point and now as students they are somehow orbiting around campus searching for their identity and guidance.

Opposing them is the charismatic leader of the Jejah group. The way he precedes is quite easy to see through from the outside, but it also clearly illustrates why he can be that successful nonetheless. He offers to Phoebe exactly what she needs at that moment and thus it is not too complicated to put a spell on her. John always remains a bit mysterious, but there is no need to reveal all about him, that’s just a part of being a strong leader of a cult, keeping some mystery and fog around you.

“The Incendiaries” is one of the most anticipated novels of 2018 and I was also immediately intrigued by the description. I definitely liked Kwon’s style of writing a lot, it is lively and eloquent. Also the development of the plot and her characters are quite convincing. However, I think she could have gone into more depth, especially towards to end.