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Jodi Picoult – A Spark of Light Henley Literary Festival 28/10/18

Signed copy for each ticket holder, it was £22 to attend.

I hold my hands up – I have never read any of Jodi’s books before, (though I do have some in my ‘To Read’ pile) – but I know about them.   And this is why I wanted to see for myself, to hear what this woman is all about, in her own words. Because she has written some award-winning books.  Some controversial books and some tearfully emotional books too.  Having written 25 books of varying subject matter – ranging from the Hallowcaust and Nazi’s.  Most recently about racism in Small Great Things.  Bone Marrow transplants – and reluctant siblings in My Sisters Keeper as a friend of mine had Leukemia and her brother was a match, she had a bone marrow transplant and lives a completely normal life – with a daily dose of anti-rejection pills and a different DNA. Which is how I heard about Jodi, as we discussed this book sat in the hospital with my friend, not long after her diagnosis. Another friend of mine was on the Bone Marrow Donor register and got chosen as a match, and went to London and gave her bone Marrow – her match wrote her a thank you letter. A simply thing but life-changing for the person concerned of course.  Jodi’s new book A Spark of light is again about another rather controversial subject, to some – abortion.

And yet, despite the complicated moral subjects – Jodi’s books sells in their millions and are printed in over 34 languages. 

The packed Summer Pavilion at Hurley House Hotel, Henley on Thames

Jodi has done her research, as she always does, and she writes from every viewpoint.  As she has, as I said done her research – from every angle – from Pro-life demonstrators.  To interviewing 151 pregnant women – who’ve undergone an abortion – only 1 regretted her decision. But all have thought about it almost daily. Only 22 of those 151 wanted to be named and acknowledged in Jodi’s research.  Others felt ashamed and had never told anyone and still didn’t want to.  Some, however, felt empowered to tell others, its ok and why they chose to do it. During this time She met and become friends with Dr Willie Parker MD who became qualified to perform abortions, not in spite of – but because of being a devout Christian. He travels around the 8 states all in the Deep South “Bible belt” where laws and poor income define these women’s choices.  And shes talked to these women – shes even gone and sat in the theatre during 3 abortions – at different stages of gestation 5, 8 and 12 weeks.   In America – as Jodi is Amercian born and breed, there are laws, different in each state sometimes, and these laws are closing down clinics and centres where abortions can be performed. Laws are black and white.  Real lives are 50 shades of grey. There are so many reasons why women have abortions – Some medically life-threatening, income, home situations, age, how the baby was conceived – affairs, rape, one night stands, married women, young women, single women, older women. No-ones reasons tend to be the same and yet are all still valid reasons. This is something that effects 1 in 4 women in our lifetime.  If not personally, by someone you know – if they felt they could tell you, as often the stigma and shame attached are enough not for people to mention it. Ever.

Speaking to BBC journalist – Sophie Van Brogen 

One woman Jodi met had an abortion because she was already a mother to 3 children and was struggling to afford to feed them. Another mouth would cause more strain – to her, she had no choice – So, is she a good Mother for aborting that child, to protect her children or a bad Mother for aborting that baby?  Is a question Jodi asked.

In the UK we have the NHS – women can get an abortion with no costs involved, our hospitals are fairly accessable to most with buses and trains in most towns.  However, in America, an individual has to pay for their doctors appointments and hospital fees – therefore young, and poor income women are the ones who suffer and in 8 out of 52 states there is only 1 clinic per state that performs abortions and these are under threat of closure due to government rules, laws and current legislation.  If you’re rich in America you can achieve this as its no problem, as travel costs and doctor’s fees are within reach.

Jodi came up with the idea for this book after a college friend had an abortion at 7 weeks.  Then when Jodi was pregnant with her 3rd child, she had a complication at the same 7-week point and an abortion was offered, she didn’t go ahead with it and her child was fine.  And so with the government and changing laws – the current Trump / Kavannagh saga that is raging and a vote on the 6th November she wants women to have a voice, to vote, for the right to have an abortion, if they want/need to. And not every woman wants to, sometimes it is a need.

Who do we get our beliefs from anyway?  We believe what we’re told by our parents, our teachers, friends, and if you only have half the story, how is that an informed choice.  

What Jodi is trying to say by writing this book – is that She won’t tell you what to believe, but will ask you to hear all sides.

 Jodi Picoult is Pro-Choice


I lent her my book, but only for a moment.

So – The Book – Every chapter goes back in time by an hour, to get to the ending and the reasons why those characters are there – in The Center.

The Center for women reductive 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 if 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. 

With the woman herself.

So, read the book – I intend to.  We are all entitled to our own opinions, thats how life is.  “Subject to change” as I always say and maybe after reading this, your opinions might change, maybe they wont.  Jodi will continue to write books and give women a voice.   

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