Book Review: A Spark of Light by Jodi Picoult

What’s it about?

The Center for women’s reproductive health offers a last chance at hope – but nobody ends up there by choice.

Its very existence is controversial, and to the demonstrators who barricade the building every day, the service it offers is no different from legalised murder.

Now life and death decisions are being made horrifyingly real: a lone protester with a gun has taken the staff, patients and visitors hostage.

Starting at the tensest moment in the negotiations for their release, A Spark of Light unravels backwards, revealing hour by urgent hour what brought each of these people – the gunman, the negotiator, the doctors, nurses and women who have come to them for treatment – to this point.

And certainties unwind as truths and secrets are peeled away, revealing the complexity of balancing the right to life with the right to choose.

My thoughts

Say what you like about Jodi Picoult but she knows how to spin a good yarn and is always relevant and on topic with it!  Her research is second to none and I am utterly convinced, every time, of her facts and detail.

This was a recent book club read and one which we had a really good discussion about.  We couldn’t have been reading and discussing at a more pivotal moment as the Alabama abortion bill was all over the news.

The book starts at 5pm and works back in time, gotta be honest here I didn’t love that the timeline started at the end and went backwards as you were given all the characters and hadn’t a clue what was happening.  As the story moves back through the day we begin to see how they these characters all came to be at the clinic at the wrong time and as the ending (or actually the beginning) nears you understand why it was totally necessary to begin at the end, it couldn’t have really worked with the timeline moving forwards and therefore I concede 😉

Of course this book isn’t going to be for every reader, there is a particularly detailed scene of an abortion which is quite brutal and in all honesty this made me really challenge my own thoughts and feelings on abortion…although I still know on which side of the fence I sit, it doesn’t make for pleasant reading!

You could cut the tension with a knife in practically every scene of this book and as long as your nerves and stomach can take it you might make the end.  The end…well here I am again, I didn’t see it coming at all or how the characters intertwined.  With all that tension, hostages, shoot outs and family drama I could definitely see this working as a movie.

As a side note – I’ve managed to convert members of my Meetup book group to read a Jodi Picoult book as they’ve all wrongly assumed, based on the covers, that they would get a very different reading experience and I’ll leave that there.

 

“So the question is not whether we will be extremists, but what kind of extremists we will be. Will we be extremists for hate or for love?”

Martin Luther King Jr.

Book links: Goodreads | Amazon | Book Depository

Author Links: Website | Twitter

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Source: Borrowed
No of pages: 368
Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton

Book Review: Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout

What’s it about?

Olive Kitteridge: indomitable, compassionate and often unpredictable. A retired schoolteacher in a small coastal town in Maine, as she grows older she struggles to make sense of the changes in her life. She is a woman who sees into the hearts of those around her, their triumphs and tragedies.

We meet her stoic husband, bound to her in a marriage both broken and strong, and a young man who aches for the mother he lost – and whom Olive comforts by her mere presence, while her own son feels overwhelmed by her complex sensitivities.

A penetrating, vibrant exploration of the human soul, the story of Olive Kitteridge will make you laugh, nod in recognition, wince in pain, and shed a tear or two.

My thoughts

This book was a group read for my Meetup group and overall I think successful.  It isn’t a book I would have chosen for myself but one, overall, I did quite like.

At the start I didn’t find Olive to be a very welcoming or likeable character.  She doesn’t seem to have any kind of filter in what comes out of her mouth, at times she has a brutal tongue, but then at times she has a very kind heart – it just took a lot to uncover!

This is a book that feels there’s not much happening and is just plodding along but actually there’s a lot rumbling underneath if you’re prepared to pick it apart.  Think of it as a social commentary of small town America, observations of a community put together in a series of short stories that feature Olive, however, I found the chapters that didn’t feature Olive too heavily the most interesting.  I didn’t find the book to be uplifting at all, it’s mostly very sad, which made it a challenge for me to pick it up.

Although, during the book and more towards the end, Olive’s physical description just kept reminding me of Mrs Doutbfire which I did find quite amusing.  Although, I don’t think it’s supposed to be.

If you enjoy character led books, for example Plain Song via Kent Haruf this will be right up your street

Book links: Goodreads | Amazon | Book Depository

Author Links: Website | Twitter

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Source: Purchased
No of pages: 352
Publisher: Simon & Schuster UK

Book Review: Convenience Store Woman by Sayaka Murata

What’s it about?

Keiko is 36 years old. She’s never had a boyfriend, and she’s been working in the same supermarket for eighteen years.

Keiko’s family wishes she’d get a proper job. Her friends wonder why she won’t get married.

But Keiko knows what makes her happy, and she’s not going to let anyone come between her and her convenience store…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My thoughts

This book was recommended by a Booktuber who has previously given very good recommendations so I went out on a limb and requested a copy from the library.  She sold it to me on the basis of its heart being thankful for what you have and enjoying what you have rather than constantly wanting more or what you don’t have.  I’m sure we all often feel like this – I know I do!

Keiko lives a simple ordinary life.  I’m sure she’s on a spectrum of some kind but she’s doing her best to fit in by following and repeating how those around her speak and act.

It’s not a book where much happens, she goes to work, we get a run down of what her daily work life entails and then she goes home and repeat, until a new employee starts.  She then tries to take on board of what others in her life tell her she should be doing and then…well…the problems start when she changes to meet others’ expectations

I believe the book is fiction but based on the author’s own experience of working in a convenience store, nothing seems to be lost in translation with some real laugh out loud moments – she has no filter.  But at the end of the day, she’s happy, she’s happy with her job and actually, she’s really good at it, and it’s a shame she’s never been promoted because she could certainly do a better job than the 8 managers she’s worked under.  It’s just everyone else around her who can’t comprehend that she could be happy with the little that she has and the expectations that we, as a society, place on other people to conform to what others believe is normal for people by the time they reach a certain age.

Simplistically told, quirky in nature, thoroughly engaging and which reminded me of Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine.

Book links: Goodreads | Amazon | Book Depository

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Source: Library
No of pages: 163
Publisher: Portobello Books

Book Review: A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini

What’s it about?

Mariam is only fifteen when she is sent to Kabul to marry Rasheed. Nearly two decades later, a friendship grows between Mariam and a local teenager, Laila, as strong as the ties between mother and daughter. When the Taliban take over, life becomes a desperate struggle against starvation, brutality and fear. Yet love can move a person to act in unexpected ways, and lead them to overcome the most daunting obstacles with a startling heroism.

 

 

 

 

 

My thoughts

How do you put your thoughts down for one of the very few books that you’ve read twice and loved – this was my second read and one I found just as powerful as the first.  Whatever I do say, won’t really do the book justice so in the words of Nike….just read it!

As a Western woman with all the freedoms that this allows me it’s so hard to get your head around how Afghan women live and were/are treated, therefore, in places it’s not an easy read and will challenge your emotions.

From the outset this book highlights the hardship for women over approximately 40 years of Afghanistan’s turbulent history; through the fall of the monarchy, military and Taliban rule, it’s often brutal! Although not idyllic when Mariam and Laila are brought together their eventual relationship is heartfelt and resilient.  I found it to be incredibly written with such ethnicity and realism which makes it even more haunting.

The ending, which is unexpected and horrifying, is completely appropriate.  This isn’t a rom-com that has the perfect ending.

I think this book is definitely overshadowed by its predecessor The Kite Runner.  Whereas that book is male orientated during the same time, this book is all about how the women endure.  Outstanding, traumatic, brutal with the knowledge that this is still life for many Afghan women.  Touching!

“One could not count the moons that shimmer on her roofs,

Or the thousand splendid suns that hide behind her walls.”

p.s Since reading the book I have been to see the play at the Birmingham Repertory Theatre. I enjoyed the experience but not so much the adaptation particularly the casting and demeanour of Rasheed; he was too young, small and nice! I don’t think I’ve been that completely emotionally detached from anything I’ve watched before – I get more emotional at an episode of Casualty!

Book links: Goodreads | Amazon | Book Depository

Author links: Twitter | Website

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Source: Purchased
No of pages: 432
Publisher: Bloomsbury

Book Review: The Five People You Meet in Heaven by Mitch Albom

What’s it about?

Eddie is a wounded war veteran, an old man who has lived, in his mind, an uninspired life. His job is fixing rides at a seaside amusement park. On his 83rd birthday, a tragic accident kills him as he tries to save a little girl from a falling cart. He awakes in the afterlife, where he learns that heaven is not a destination. It’s a place where your life is explained to you by five people, some of whom you knew, others who may have been strangers. One by one, from childhood to soldier to old age, Eddie’s five people revisit their connections to him on earth, illuminating the mysteries of his “meaningless” life, and revealing the haunting secret behind the eternal question: “Why was I here?”

 

 

My thoughts

This book was recommended to me by several members of my book Meetup so I decided to give it a go.  As this was quite a short book, I’ll make my thoughts quite succinct too!

In essence, this book is one persons’s interpretation of an afterlife, one, which, I’m not quite sure I’d want to be honest.  I thought that being hauled over the coals in your afterlife for how you lived your life is not something I find appealing – surely that’s Hell, not Heaven…. Having your relationships with people analysed and witnessing the impact we have on others, even those we don’t know, from a distance and then not being able to change or atone.  I didn’t really engage with Eddie’s character either so wasn’t awfully bothered what he going to be subjected to (I know…harsh!).

It’s bittersweet, sad and sentimental, but it just wasn’t for me, however appealing the presentation of the book was; being slightly smaller than A5 with a textured cover and small illustrations to the start of the chapters.

There was only one real moment when I thought ahhh that’s a shame, and that was to do with the car accident, if you’ve read it, you’ll know which bit.  I’m afraid I don’t do so well with over-sentimental drama.  If I could sum this book up in one word it would be schmaltzy – enough said!

Book links: Goodreads | Amazon | Book Depository

Author links: Twitter | Website

Small print for info
Source: Borrowed
No of pages: 224
Publisher: Hachette