Thursday, 21 February 2019

February Fiction Reviews | A Spark of Light + The Dream Daughter



- source: library borrow -
In his line of work as police officer and hostage negotiator, Hugh is trained in attending calls that require his skills in listening, understanding, and of course negotiating, however, the situation at The Center is a little different. The Center is a women's health clinic in the state of Mississippi where abortions are performed, and on this particular day that Hugh is called to the scene to negotiate, he is soon to learn that his daughter is inside the clinic with the other hostages, and of course, the gunman.

As well as the narrative of Hugh, A Spark of Light sees the story unfold through the eyes of gunman, George, and also the hostages inside the Center - they all have their own personal story to tell. Interwoven between the scenes at The Center is the story of Beth, a seventeen year old who finds herself under arrest after taking pills acquired online in order to perform an abortion at home. The stories that run alongside each other are linked, quite obviously so in my opinion, and yet they are wrote as if they are not - a mystery even - with all being revealed at the end.

There is a lot going on in A Spark of Light, with a lot of characters to keep track of also. Although all the characters had their own individuality, with the kind of detailed backstory you'll often find in Picoult's books, I found that I wasn't able to fully invest in them all given the writing style. Chronicled by time, the story is told backwards - starting at 5pm and concluding at 8am, with an epilogue wrapping everything up in the end. I wasn't really a fan of this story telling method, but also I found it to be quite jarring; each time frame is split up into many sections, with different character perspectives, that were too short for me to be fully pulled into their own story. I enjoyed certain characters - Hugh, Olive, Louie - however, I feel like when an author has gone to the length of creating these layered backstories for every single character, giving them place & purpose, I want to be able to enjoy them all. Not necessarily like and connect with all the individuals, but appreciate their presence - I feel like I wasn't able to in this book.

I think the focus of A Spark of Light - abortion in the US - to be a very prevalent and topical one; being the kind of book that opens up discussion and conversation. Also, as a UK reader, I found the topic to be quite eye opening one, what with the laws & views surrounding abortion being quite different to those here. I was genuinely interested in learning more about this subject - as well as reading the 'Author's Notes' to garner more information, I have independently researched to further my knowledge on this matter. I feel like this is the reason why Picoult has written this book: to get people talking & thinking.

Given the focus of abortion in this book, it is worth noting that as well as sharing facts, views, and opinions on what is quite a sensitive topic, there is a scene of an abortion being performed on a patient that is walked through step by step almost. I know some readers would perhaps find this uncomfortable to read, understandably, so I wanted to point that out.

Jodi Picoult is quite well known for honing in on current, and often times controversial subjects, with a careful and unbiased brush... I do think her own personal views were loudest in this book (stating in the 'Author Notes' that she is pro-choice), but that the subject matter of abortion was written in a thoughtful & tactful way.

Usually, in a book by Jodi Picoult, I find myself engaged in the story because of the characters - Picoult's writing style lends to very character driven books - however that wasn't the case for me with A Spark of Light. Whilst her familiar writing style is very much present, I found I was pulled more by the plot than the characters themselves - I wanted to know how the story ended because I was intrigued and committed, not because I cared for the characters as such.

I found I came away from A Spark of Light quite unsure, especially with regards to articulating my thoughts into a review... There were parts I liked about this book, and parts I didn't. I feel like I could sit and discuss A Spark of Light with fellow readers for a long time - it is that kind of book - however I maintain a spoiler free blog, which makes that tricky!

To sum up, for premise alone, I would recommend A Spark of Light by Jodi Picoult.

- source: library borrow (but I want my own copy) - 
Having recently lost her husband in the Vietnam War, Carly finds herself with more grief when she learns that the baby she is carrying - all that she has left of her husband Joe - has a heart problem, a complication that could mean her unborn baby will survive for a very small amount of time once born, if at all. With the prognosis bleak, Carly's brother-in-law Hunter shares a long held secret of his own, one that could very well ruin all that he holds dear, but also one that could save the life of Carly & Joe's baby. Hunter gives Carly a glimmer of hope, and after some scepticism, she grabs at it whole heartedly.

Told from the perspective of Carly & Hunter, The Dream Daughter is a book that invites you in immediately, with a warm welcome that wholly envelopes you in the story. From the very first page I found myself invested in the complex, and emotionally charged, journey that Carly finds herself on.

I have previously read a few other books by Diane Chamberlain, and have always admired the way in which she writes family relationships - with heart & depth; the good and the bad. This writing style is very much present in The Dream Daughter, taking a deep dive at the unconditional love a parent has for a child, but with this particular book there is an added theme that I personally haven't seen her write before, but that works incredibly well woven into Carly's story. Although this theme is a large part of the plot, it isn't mentioned in the blurb, and so for that reason I'm not going to specifically state it here in my review. I will say it is something I love seeing in fiction, written in this way, and Diane Chamberlain has executed the use of it perfectly - allowing a level of understanding and simplicity for readers, with a topic that could be hard to wrap your head around.

There are many thoughts I'd love to share about The Dream Daughter, but without alluding to the theme I'm choosing not to mention, that makes writing about this book a little difficult.

You know those books that completely consume you - they hold you throughout, totally blow you away, and you want to treasure forever - well, The Dream Daughter is one of those books for me.


  1. Lovely reviews! I wasn't too sure about a Spark of Light either so it's been great reading your review for this as I thought it was maybe just me. I'm so glad you enjoyed The Dream Daughter wasn't it a wonderful book!

    1. Thanks. I'm just glad my A Spark of Light review made sense and came across as I hoped - it was so hard to write, weirdly!

      The Dream Daughter was such a beautiful book; wonderful indeed.

  2. I started A Spark of Light and stopped reading it after a few chapters. I may get back to it but it just wasn't keeping me turning the pages. I do love her books but, for some reason I was having trouble - maybe bad timing.

    1. You definitely have to be a certain frame of mind, and reading head space, with Jodi Picoult's books I find. I hope you have better luck second time round, Diane.


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