A Spark of Light
by Jodi Picoult
October 2, 2018
Jodi Picoult is known for fearlessly tackling sensitive subjects. In her bestselling novels, themes such as childhood cancer, race and white supremacy, the death penalty, school shootings, and mental health have been the limelight. She has the ability to weave these polarizing issues into stories in a way that provokes productive thought. And her latest novel is no different.
“Laws are black and white. The lives of women are a thousand shades of grey” (361).
A Spark of Light revolves around a hostage situation at The Center – a women’s reproductive health clinic in Mississippi. It explores the beliefs and journey of each individual character in an effort to ignite understanding. The story starts with George Goddard; he is holding hostages at gunpoint at a Mississippi women’s reproductive health clinic. His daughter got an abortion there without his knowledge, and he wants payback. He wants to send a message.
Each of the hostages came to the clinic for a different reason. Wren wanted birth control but was too scared to ask her Dad. Joy is a college student who got pregnant by a married man and needs an abortion. Janine is a pro-life protester who was spying. Izzy is a nurse. The story is told in reverse chronology, starting with the near-end of the hostage crisis and traveling back in time to reveal the inner depths of each character.
Did you know that Muslims believe that it takes forty-two days from conception for Allah to send an angel to transform the cells into a live being? Catholics believe that life starts at conception while Jews think that the soul comes at birth. Thomas Aquinas said that abortion was homicide after forty days for a male embryo and eighty days for a female.
“Your religion should help you make the right decision if you find yourself in that situation. But the policy should exist for you to have the right to make it in the first place. When you say you can’t do something because your religion forbids it, that’s a good thing. When you say I can’t do something because your religion forbids it, that’s a problem” (343).
The incongruities do not stop at religious beliefs. Iowa bans abortion six weeks after conception while Alabama sets the limit at twenty weeks. In Maine, abortion is legal at any stage so long as it is performed by a practicing physician. If Roe vs. Wade is overturned, abortion will immediately become illegal in the state of Louisiana. On the other hand, minors do not need parental consent to get an abortion in California, New York, Oregon, and other states. To state the obvious, abortion is a controversial topic.
Is it a person or potential? A child or a choice? Selfish of selfless? Murder or mercy? A terrible mother or a responsible one? Does the fetus have less human rights because of its cognitive deficits? What does that mean for people with mental disabilities or Alzheimers? Who would argue that there is no difference between chopping down an oak tree and stepping on an acorn? At what point does the fusion of sperm and egg become a human? And who has the right to say?
There is a separation of church and state for a reason… and it is because religion means something different to everyone. Although the plot features gun violence, it is clear that the real terrorism comes from law-makers.
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