Book Reviews

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Review of A Spark of Light by Jodi Picoult

a spark of lightWow, Jodi Picoult has done it again. She truly is the queen of family drama and controversy. Picoult is one of my favorite all-time authors (thanks to a recommendation from my friend Steph in college many years ago), and I have read most of her books. When I found out she had a new book coming out this October, I HAD to put it on the top of my TBR pile. As typical with Picoult, she has chosen a difficult topic, one that has people divided because of religion and politics. She weaves an intricate story without ever choosing a side. A lot of research went into writing this book, and it shows.

Abortion and women’s reproductive rights are two main topics tackled in A Spark of Light: A Novel. Fatherhood is another main theme, and Picoult writes beautifully about two single fathers raising daughters in today’s world. As always, Picoult makes us question our own beliefs and convictions throughout the telling of this story. Each character has their own motivation and beliefs, and Picoult makes it so easy to understand everyone’s point of view, even if you don’t agree with it. It’s an uncomfortable topic to think about, and no matter what experience you’ve had, you will relate to one of the characters in the book. I am not a mother, but have experienced my own reproductive health issues and concerns, as most women have. I found myself intrigued by different aspects of the story, and going to google and wikipedia to find out more information.

Each chapter is not told from a different character’s perspective, like Picoult often does in her books. She still chooses to alternate points of view, but within each chapter. The story is told in reverse chronological order, and each chapter is a different hour of the day, starting at 5 p.m. and ending with 8 a.m. The epilogue goes back to 6 p.m. in an attempt to tie up loose ends. However, this storytelling technique is a little disorienting and I was left wanting a bit more explanation of how everyone’s story played out. Picoult is known for having some shocking twist/revelation in her books, but I saw it coming a mile away in this one, so was not surprised in the usual way I’ve come to expect from Picoult’s stories.

One of my favorite quotes is at the end of the book, in the author’s note. Picoult says, “But I do think that the first step is to talk to each other–and more important, to listen. We may not see eye to eye, but we can respect each other’s opinions and find the truth in them. Perhaps in those honest conversations, instead of demonizing each other, we might see each other as imperfect humans, doing our best.” Beautiful words of wisdom spoken from an author who writes fictional dramas rooted in real world issues.

I gave this book a 5 out of 5 stars on Goodreads. This is because I would like to re-read it with the knowledge of each character’s full story in hindsight, to gain some more insight into each character. Picoult has taken a complex, difficult topic and opened the dialogue. I think this should be required reading for both men and women. It may give men insight into what women have to deal with at all stages of life, just being a woman. I recommend this book for anyone interested in social issues, family drama, and women’s rights.

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Review of Before We Were Yours by Lisa Wingate

IMG_5195I first heard of this book from my Mom. She was reading it and raved that I would love it.  My Mom and I love talking about books together, so she set it aside for me to read. She then kept asking me if I had read it yet.  Months went by until I finally decided it was a good time to pick it up, and I was glad my Mom was so persistent.

This is a well-written book that fits into the historical fiction category. It’s one of those books that alternates chapters between two female characters: May Crandall and Avery Stafford. May’s narrative is mainly written in the past, in the year 1939 in Memphis, Tennessee. Avery’s narrative is written in present day Aiken, South Carolina. The two characters meet in the first chapter of the book, but it’s not until the end when their full connection to each other is revealed.

The character development of May as a child is strong; however, I felt the development of Avery lacking. Avery’s character was a bit of a cliche: big shot lawyer with a fiancee comes back to her hometown and falls in love with local guy who helps her figure out some mystery/conflict. I’ve seen it several times before in books, movies, and TV shows. I thought that the book could do without the fiancee at home storyline. I also did not enjoy the storyline of Avery and her senator Dad and his career. It was a distraction and only played a minor role in motivating some of the characters to keep the family secrets hidden.

I really enjoyed Lisa Wingate‘s writing, as it was descriptive and easy to read. I could picture what the Arcadia shanty boat looked like in my mind, and felt like I was right there watching this all happen. I could imagine the children’s home and how horrible and squalid the conditions were. Wingate’s writing shone in those dark descriptions.

The most disturbing part of this book is the note from the author at the end of the book, when she reveals to the reader that the basis of the story is true and that there was an actual person named Georgia Tann in charge of adoptions at the Tennessee Children’s Home Society. She basically was a human trafficker who took children away from their homes and sold them for ridiculous amounts. Read more about Georgia Tann here.

I gave this book 4 out of 5 stars on Goodreads, because I usually reserve 5 stars for books that I would read over and over again. This was an enjoyable read, but one that I probably would not read again. I would recommend this book to anyone who enjoys women’s fiction, southern fiction, and historical fiction.


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