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A Spark of Light by Jodi Picoult tackles an important subject: women’s reproductive rights and examines it from very different perspectives. The following book club questions will have spoilers so if you haven’t read the novel yet, check out my preview and review first.
The story is about a gunman who bursts into a women’s reproductive health services clinic—opening fire and taking all inside hostage. Hugh McElroy, a police hostage negotiator, sets up a perimeter and begins making a plan to communicate with the gunman. As his phone vibrates with incoming text messages he glances at it and, to his horror, finds out that his fifteen-year-old daughter, Wren, is inside the clinic.
This is one that makes you sit back and think. I stayed up way too late reading it and when I finished, I couldn’t not sleep. Anyone else experience the same thing?
Let’s get into the book club questions.
- The story is told from a backwards narrative, starting with the end of the hostage takeover and goes back each hour until the start of the day. What did you think about this narrative choice? Why do you believe the author chose this style? Do you believe it served the story well?
- Let’s map out the large cast of characters: the teenager Wren, her dad and negotiator Hugh, Wren’s aunt Bex, the nurse Izzy, the undercover anti-abortion activist Janine, the older professor Olive, the patient Joy, the doctor Louie, the gunman George and a girl in legal trouble Beth. Which storyline were you the most engaged with?
- Did you connect that Beth was George’s daughter? How did getting to know her story add additional layers to what happens in the novel?
- Once Hugh learns that Wren and Bex are in the Center, he doesn’t step aside, even though that’s protocol. In what ways did his personal investment help the hostage situation and in other ways, how did it become worse?
- Why do you think Bex didn’t tell Hugh that Wren wanted birth control? What did you think about the reveal that Bex is actually Hugh’s mother?
- We learn quite a bit about Hugh, he had aspirations to work for NASA but his wife ended up pregnant with Wren at an early age. How did knowing more of his backstory shape your impression of him and his relationship with Wren and Bex?
- Why do you think the author decided to include an anti-abortion character (Janine) in the Center? We read early on that Janine and Joy find some comfort in each other (after the shooting) even though they vastly disagree on abortion. With reading what happens to these characters, why do you think they turn to each other in the end after it’s done? How did they both serve as opposite sites of the debate?
- Were you surprised when Janine admits she had an abortion herself? Is she a hypocrite?
- Let’s talk about the doctor Louie. He understand his work is dangerous but he doesn’t let that stop him. Why was it important for him to continuing working in this area?
- Why do you believe Olive sacrificed herself for Wren?
- We’re sometimes in the viewpoint of George, what did you think overall about those sections? His motivation to go there is because he believes his daughter had an abortion at the center, do you believe that’s the only reason why? Or was he a ticking time bomb ready to go off at any moment? How would have things been different if his daughter was honest with him?
- Jodi says in her author’s note that she doesn’t believe society will ever agree on the issue. But the first step is talk to each other and to listen. Do you believe that honest conservations about this can ever happen? Are you comfortable talking about where you stand on the debate?
- Jodi says that a major takeaway of the novel is what it means to be a good parent. What do you think it means in the context of this story?