What I’m Reading: Leaving Time

From the book jacket:

For more than a decade, Jenna Metcalf has never stopped thinking about her mother, Alice, who mysteriously disappeared in the wake of a tragic accident. Refusing to believe she was abandoned, Jenna searches for her mother regularly online and pores over the pages of Alice’s old journals. A scientist who studied grief among elephants, Alice wrote mostly of her research among the animals she loved, yet Jenna hopes the entries will provide a clue to her mother’s whereabouts.

As Jenna’s memories dovetail with the events in her mother’s journals, the story races to a mesmerizing finish. 

My review:

When I’m wanting to read a real, solid book, Jodi Picoult is pretty much a no-brainer. Leaving Time is a few years old now, but I’ve yet to read it so I thought I’d give it a go thanks to a special deal on Kobo.

While I’ll admit that it was a little long in some areas, I really enjoyed reading Jenna, Alice, Virgil, and Serenity’s stories. Reading about the elephants, however, was probably the most heart-wrenching but captivating parts of the book for me.

The ending, like many reviewers before me, took me for a loop but I loved it. Honestly, I didn’t even clue into the twist until the moment it happened. Slow clap for Picoult!

Perhaps it was the slog of the last book I read, but I really, really loved Leaving Time.

My rating: ★★★★★/5 stars

What I’m Reading: A Spark of Light

From the book jacket:

The warm fall day starts like any other at the Center—a women’s reproductive health services clinic—its staff offering care to anyone who passes through its doors. Then, in late morning, a desperate and distraught gunman bursts in and opens fire, taking all inside hostage.

After rushing to the scene, 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.

But Wren is not alone. She will share the next and tensest few hours of her young life with a cast of unforgettable characters: A nurse who calms her own panic in order save the life of a wounded woman. A doctor who does his work not in spite of his faith but because of it, and who will find that faith tested as never before. A pro-life protester disguised as a patient, who now stands in the cross hairs of the same rage she herself has felt. A young woman who has come to terminate her pregnancy. And the disturbed individual himself, vowing to be heard.

Told in a daring and enthralling narrative structure that counts backward through the hours of the standoff, this is a story that traces its way back to what brought each of these very different individuals to the same place on this fateful day.

Jodi Picoult—one of the most fearless writers of our time—tackles a complicated issue in this gripping and nuanced novel. How do we balance the rights of pregnant women with the rights of the unborn they carry? What does it mean to be a good parent? A Spark of Light will inspire debate, conversation . . . and, hopefully, understanding. 

My review:

I’m not even sure where to start with A Spark of Light, so I suppose I’ll start by saying that I really, really enjoyed it. The reverse timeline, while different, worked so well; I couldn’t put the book down because I wanted to know how everyone got to this point. In a sense, it’s much like how any type of investigative work is conducted: A major event happens, and all the layers are peeled back one by one to see where everything/everyone originated from.

Without getting into what my personal beliefs are on the subject of this book (because that’s not what this review is about), I can understand the anger and frustration from both sides of the equation, and Picoult does a remarkable job arguing both sides.

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.

– Dr. Louie Ward

I think that quote spoke to me the most, out of everything else in the book. No matter what your beliefs may be, I think the above quote is something everyone should really consider in all aspects of life.

A Spark of Light also made me so thankful to live where I do. Healthcare is an amazing privilege and while there are a few issues, I can find care regardless of my social status.

Anyway – while I’ve read that some readers didn’t like the reverse timeline, I felt that Picoult left just enough information out to keep me intrigued and wondering how everything happened – thank goodness for the epilogue! The small twist near the end was perfect and not too over-the-top, and explains so much. My only desire was to learn more about Beth. At the end of the book I was left wondering what happened to her because in a sense, she had lost the most out of anyone.

Overall, I believe that A Spark of Light is a thought-provoking book that is definitely worth reading. Jodi Picoult nailed it again.

My rating: ★★★★★/5

What I’m Reading: Small Great Things

28587957From the book jacket:
Ruth Jefferson is a labor and delivery nurse at a Connecticut hospital with more than twenty years’ experience. During her shift, Ruth begins a routine checkup on a newborn, only to be told a few minutes later that she’s been reassigned to another patient. The parents are white supremacists and don’t want Ruth, who is African American, to touch their child. The hospital complies with their request, but the next day, the baby goes into cardiac distress while Ruth is alone in the nursery. Does she obey orders or does she intervene?

Ruth hesitates before performing CPR and, as a result, is charged with a serious crime. Kennedy McQuarrie, a white public defender, takes her case but gives unexpected advice: Kennedy insists that mentioning race in the courtroom is not a winning strategy. Conflicted by Kennedy’s counsel, Ruth tries to keep life as normal as possible for her family—especially her teenage son—as the case becomes a media sensation. As the trial moves forward, Ruth and Kennedy must gain each other’s trust, and come to see that what they’ve been taught their whole lives about others—and themselves—might be wrong.

With incredible empathy, intelligence, and candor, Jodi Picoult tackles race, privilege, prejudice, justice, and compassion—and doesn’t offer easy answers. Small Great Things is a remarkable achievement from a writer at the top of her game.

My review:
I don’t believe that I have been so moved in so many different ways by a book until I read Small Great Things. I laughed, cried, and was enraged. I questioned my own believes. I think Small Great Things did everything it was supposed to do, and that was to help in opening your eyes, if only a mere millimetre more, to show how regardless of how non-racist we may make ourselves out to be, can we really comment on it?

Small Great Things made me reflect upon my own experiences with racism and how it’s affected me and how I reflect it. Do I overcompensate to try “show off” my acceptance? Does the fact that I’m bi-racial make it OK for me to joke about race? (Specifically my own.) Is race an issue in the city I live in? The province? The country? There’s a thousand different answers and depending on your own beliefs, there’s no wrong one.

I know many other readers were skeptical of Picoult tackling this subject because she is, by the book’s very own standard, privileged, but I believe it takes a certain amount of guts to delve this deep into racism, especially considering today’s political issues. She acknowledged the fact that she felt out of place writing a book about race, but I think she gave it her all and did the best she could.

I know no one, no matter what your race, can relate to or know what it’s like to be someone else – White, Black, Asian, Middle Eastern, Indian, etc., but we can at least open our eyes and try to understand.

I feel like I’ve gone off on a bit of a tangent, so back to the book itself. Safe to say – I loved Small Great Things and its characters, yes, even Turk. While his beliefs are obviously filled with hate it was heart-wrenching reading about what he went through with his son. I can appreciate Ruth’s apprehension working with Kennedy and ultimately deciding to go with her gut. I can understand Edison’s turn in personality and attitude as he tries to figure out who he is.

Small Great Things is a timely read and I highly recommend it. I give it 5 stars out of 5.